Maxi sat in the shade of a tree on the training grounds of the Tower Cerulean. The weather had cleared nicely since the snow this morning. Now it felt like a pleasant early summer afternoon. She spun a silver Notion on the tip of her finger. It moved to each digit and then to the other hand.
“That’s quite a feat.”
She looked over to see Sergeant Gendarme Arpin watching her. She shrugged but the Notion did not drop.
“Just a silly trick,” she replied with a smile.
“Perhaps, but there are few that could do that.”
“You’re not wrong.”
He took a pack of cigarettes out and offered her one. She accepted and he sat next to her. They both smoked for a while, just enjoying the moment.
“These are terrible for us you know,” she said after a long drag.
“Absolutely, but I cannot quit.”
“Me either. Can I ask you something?”
“Are you going to bound me by law?”
His whiskers twitched.
“On what charge?”
“You tell me.”
“As far as I can tell, you have not broken the law.”
“I had the Penultimate Device.”
“You inherited that from your Semi-Aunt Ismay-”
“-the Golden Kraken. I got an earful from the Marshal about that.”
“The Marshal is a woman of definite opinions.”
“Technically, I was in possession of a stolen artifact.”
“True, but you didn’t do the actual stealing.”
“Some people think that if you are related to a criminal, that makes you a criminal,” Maxi said with a slight note of bitterness.
“Self-pity does not suit you. You strike me as someone who knows who they are and is content with that. Am I wrong?”
She smiled and said, “You’re very astute.”
“If you simply watch and listen, it’s remarkable how much you can learn.”
“I’ll have to remember that.”
“Additionally, people cannot be prosecuted for the crimes of their family, not since the Grand Liberation. You are free and clear of any wrongdoing. I suspect you knew that already.”
“Maybe. I’m sure there are colleagues of yours who might not be as generous in their interpretation of the law.”
“Very likely. However, I must take a longer view of the situation. We both have seen what is going on or at the very least we see that something is going on. If I tried to bound you by law now, it would be like catching a rat while the house burns down.”
Maxi gave him a slide long look and said, “Am I a (the) rat in this analogy?”
“A very clever one, if that makes any difference.”
“What are you going to do now?”
“I’d love another cigarette,” she said with a raised eyebrow.
He handed one to her and lit it for her.
“You should get a proper cigarette case.”
“When this is all over,” Arpin said, lighting his own, “Beyond this smoke, what are your plans?”
“Sergeant Gendarme Arpin! Are you flirting with me?”
His whiskers twitched again.
“While that would be very enjoyable, I meant about the immediate future.”
“Well, I don’t really have any reason to stick around. The key and Penultimate device are here, guarded by the Chevaliers. The League doesn’t have any real reason to hunt me down.”
“Yet, you have not left.”
“No… I haven’t.”
“Why haven’t you?”
“It’s like a holiday, only with uninteresting food and no wine or cocktails. To say nothing of all the suspicious looks.”
“Who could leave such a paradise?”
They both chuckled.
“I suppose I feel safe here,” Maxi admitted, “Don’t tell the Marshal.”
“Your secret will die with me.”
“May I tell you something?”
She smirked and replied, “A secret for a secret.”
“On paper, we have a détente. If everything goes to plan, the Arrondissement will return to normal, or at least it’s version of normal. However, things seldom go to plan. I am pleased you are still here. “
“What do you think I can do?”
“You evaded the League of Spiders for approximately a month, disguised as a novice of the Order of the Déception Éternelle. You subtly aided Olivia Chercheur in finding the key, to say nothing of discovering that she was hired by the League and later rescuing her from them. According to the Unexpected Chevalier, you dispatched a League assailant, even if it did put you in danger. That and you have friends in the Feline Union.”
“What makes you think I’m a cat-friend?”
He pointed to a grey shorthair sitting on the wall around the grounds. It stared at them with unmistakable impatience.
“I have to say, I’m impressed,” Maxi said nodding her head.
“Then will you help me?”
“How could I say no?”