Monsieur L’Horloge, meticulously placed the tiny gears in the order that he removed each one from the chronoton. Adjusting his magnifying rig, he checked to see if there was any dust or other outside contaminates in the interior.
Normally, work of this sort was like meditation for him. The way a chronoton worked, each piece linked to another, their roles clearly defined made him feel that all was right within the Arrondissement. It wasn’t though and it seemed to be getting decreasingly less right with the passage of time.
Beyond the weight of the strange and dangerous events that had arisen, there was the matter of his new protector.
Standing in the center of his office and workspace stood the Precise Chevalier. She was tall and lean, but moved with purpose, when she did. At the moment she merely stood. Her armor was a made from a fine crimson chainmail with a dark blue trim, though it was tailored as a knee-length jacked and matching trousers. Her rapier hung from a baldric made of supple grey leather, the same material as her boots.
She did not engage him in frivolous small talk or stalk about the room. In fact, most people would forget that she was even there, given her silence and stillness. However Monsieur L’Horloge was not most people. He had grown accustomed to working with no others present, his by appointment policy was partially because his did such fine work and could insist upon such conditions. But mostly he disliked people observing him work.
The Precise Chevalier was chosen for the reason that she would not violate his rules with the exception of her presence. It was not his decision, which further irked him. Zsófia had insisted. She told him that if he did not hire someone for protection, she would not only leave him but would not shed a tear when he was killed, nor attend his funeral. He suggested that she was being overly dramatic, which was very poorly received, and in the end, he relented.
Satisfied that the chronoton was clean and working properly, he slowly reassembled it, wound it and listened to the soft and steady measure of the gears. Giving it a polish with the chamois, he placed in the velvet lined case and placed the case in a drawer.
“I have a luncheon appointment,” he announced.
The Precise Chevalier nodded and moved to the door, waiting.
“It will not be necessary for you to accompany me,” Monsieur L’Horloge said anticipating the following response.
“That would be a violation of the tenets of the Coterie du Honor, Monsieur, I must not leave your side. You may count on my compete discretion in all matters, your secrets are mine, for as long as I draw breath, and beyond.”
Monsieur L’Horloge sighed and pulled on his coat. They moved to the entrance at the end of the hall just in time to disembark from the building. Her squire, Aliásar was waiting with a velo-pede.
“Where to Monsieur?”
They eventually arrived at a brasserie in the artist’s quarter. It was loud and full of self-involved people who were unlikely to try and eavesdrop. Frau Schlüsselherrin was waiting at a table in the middle of the place, and had a plate of bread, cheese and pickles in front of her.
“L’Horloge, Chevalier,” she said slathering a piece of bread with grainy mustard.
“What have you learned?” he asked.
The key mistress took a bite, chewed and swallowed.
“Not much. Other than old tales and children’s stories. You?”
“Just some obscure references in old texts. Zsófia is doing some research, but nothing yet.”
Their conversation took a pause, as neither knew what to say. L’Horloge flagged a waiter and ordered a small bowl of cheese broth, the Precise Chevalier only required water but he wanted some wine.
“I feel as though we are being hunted by scraps of malice.”
“Very poetic but it’s not actually helpful,” Schlüsselherrin snapped.
“What great insights have you brought?”
Frau Schlüsselherrin’s eyes narrowed and her nostrils flared.
“While you are assuredly a worthy foe,” said the Precise Chevalier, “your death would only serve your enemies. And I would regret removing your genius from the Arrondissement.”
The key mistress took a deep breath and said, “I’m sorry. I let my temper get the better of me.”
“I accept your apology and please do the same for me. This business takes a toll.”
They shook hands and switched places at the table, ending the matter.
“I have some good news, though it is a small thing.”
Monsieur L’Horloge removed a small square of brown paper from his jacket and handed it to Frau Schlüsselherrin. She read it.
“So someone else is looking for the key? That sounds like bad news.”
“We had to assume that others would be looking, but now we have some clue as to whom is doing it.”
“They hired a finder, we should’ve done that.”
“But they are having trouble.”
“Our client (they had agreed never to speak her name aloud as a precaution), is working on that.”
“I wish we had more.”
“As do I.”
Just then the bowl of cheese broth and glass of wine was placed before Frau Schlüsselherrin, prompting some plate and glass switching but quickly, everyone had the correct food and drink. Monsieur L’Horloge raised his glass.
“To the slaying of the spider.”
The two craftsmen clinked glasses and drank.
“Pardon, but to what spider do you refer?” asked the Precise Chevalier.
Monsieur L’Horloge looked at Frau Schlüsselherrin who shrugged. He took out his notebook and opened it to the sketch of the spider that was found both on the box containing the dangerous machine, as well as on the pin of the burglar.
“The Spinners,” she said with a particular, undisguised hatred.