Olivia had insisted on meeting at the Museum of Unnatural History. Actually, it was her father who had told her that her first choice, a small café in the carpenter’s district would be more trouble. She took his concerns seriously, as he did excel in finding trouble.
A group of students stood in front of the skeleton of the Hypothetical Rex, watching its bones change from rusty iron to rippling darkness and then to engraved air. The plaque said that the composition of the bones changed constantly and was never repeated. Olivia remembered being fascinated by this as a girl and had to admit it was still quite a sight.
She turned to see a velvet-jacketed docent chase a calico cat out of the room. If it were a race, the cat was winning.
“Remarkable, isn’t it?”
Olivia jumped slightly as Novice Hortense appeared at her side.
“What are you doing here?” asked Olivia
The Novice smiled.
“Just enjoying a little time off.”
“I didn’t think that the order of Déception Éternelle was so casual.”
Olivia didn’t mean it to come out like an accusation but she had been rattled.
“Oh, they aren’t. But between you and me, I’m a terrible Novice.”
“Maybe you should leave.”
“I doubt I’ll be taking the vows.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
Hortense smiled and said, “My advice worked, didn’t it?”
“About not looking for that thing you were looking for.”
“I don’t see what-“
The Novice looked her deep in the eyes and said, “You have it.”
“You’re in danger.”
Olivia laughed. A little too loudly perhaps as the group of students giggled in response earning them, and her a glare from their teacher.
“I know it seems dramatic but I’m not lying.”
“This is a public place, nothing can happen here.”
Hortense smiled again and said, “Do you really believe that is true.”
Taking her gently by the arm, the Novice guided her away from the ever-shifting bones of the thunder lizard.
“Do you trust your client?”
“He seems… odd.”
“You are very generous. He is poison, he and those he works for.”
Olivia almost laughed again, it seemed like something from a copper concept novel.
“I do know how it sounds but I’m entirely serious.”
They had moved to the Dream Aviary, which was filled with winged aspirations. One flew through Olivia and filled her with momentary hope.
“What do the sisters of the Déception Éternelle have to do with all this?”
“Remember how I said I was a terrible Novice?”
As they approached the exit, a figure appeared before them. He was utterly ordinary.
Hortense pivoted and pulled Olivia back the way they came. They pushed past other museum visitors and the figure pursued. Looking over her shoulder, Olivia saw that the winged aspirations avoided their stalker.
They cut into the Hall of Impossibilities, filled with sculptures of things that never existed. It was lit in a sinister way, a rich umber from below, shadows were everywhere and not a place one would feel safe.
The voice carried throughout the room, the acoustics were outstanding. Hortense and Olivia stood in the center of the room and at each exit stood a figure.
“Should I just give them what they want?” Olivia whispers.
“Death is our gift to you,” said one of the hunters.
“Really?’ asked Hortense, “You are terrible at presents.”
“What?” said Olivia whose day had gone from odd to horrible and then doubled back to odd.
“You Maxilline will come with us.”
“Wait, your name isn’t Hortense?”
“Please, do I look like a Hortense?”
She did not.
Each figure took a dagger from inside their coats and closed in. It was then that Hortense, née Maxilline, aka Maxi then threw back her head and yowled.
Of course the clowder sprung into action.