“Did the rest of them get in?”
“I hope so.”
“Without hope, we are lost.”
“Very philosophical,” replied Maxi.
“Perhaps, but as things stand the other choice is to panic or surrender.”
“Hope it is then.”
“Are we close to the watch-master’s office?” asked Arpin.
“We are thirteen floors above.”
“So, we must use the stairs.”
“The Escher Spiders might prove to be difficult,” Maxi pointed out.
“But it’s not like the rest has been easy.”
“It has not.”
Arpin produced a copper flask and a carved wooden, collapsible cup from his jacket. He poured a shot and handed it to Maxi.
“Drinking on the job? Scandalous!” she said with a smirk.
“As the soul Gendarme on duty in the Arrondissement, I have decided to give myself some leeway in this matter. Though later on I may have to give myself a stern talking to.”
“Seems fair, given everything.”
“To going forward!” he said and they drank.
Maxi’s eyes went wide but she didn’t spit the liquor out.
“Smooth,” she coughed.
“A friend of mine makes it in small batches.”
“Large batches might be a be a war crime.”
“I’ve said as much to my friend.”
They looked at each other for a moment and then strode to the stairway door.
Maxi and Arpin both jumped. Hairs stood on end. Sweat broke out cold. Whiskers twitched and continued to do so. Fighting panic, they moved back to back, Maxi with a knife in each hand and Arpin with his Morpheus.
“Sorry!” said Nikita in a conciliatory tone.
“You need to be more careful with that!” said Maxi as she sheathed her blades.
“I haven’t been a spirit that long. It’s not like there’s a primer on being dead.”
“I’m certain you intended no malice but please try to be more cautious, if you can,” said Arpin.
“I will. Again, I’m very sorry.”
Maxi resisted the urge to ask for another shot.
“Did the others get in?” she asked.
“I haven’t seen them, but I came from the upper floors,” stated Nikita, “Well, above where we are now. Does this building even have a top floor?”
“Every floor is the top floor,” noted Maxi, “For a moment.”
“We should go to L’Horloge’s office. The others will be headed there as well,” suggested Arpin.
“Escher Spiders, here we come,” said Maxi with mock joy.
“A shame we need to see where we’re going,” mused Arpin.
“Why?” asked Nikita.
“Well, the Escher Spiders can overlap up, down, left, right, and so on. That’s how they trap their prey.”
“That’s weird,” said the ghost.
“I suppose it is,” added Arpin.
“No. I went into the stairwell, to see if anyone was in there. I didn’t see the others but the Escher Spiders were doing, well, what they do but I could see through it.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s like there were rough outlines but I could still see the stairs.”
Arpin looked at Maxi and said, “I have a thought.”
“A good one?”
“Yes and no.”
Maxi and Arpin tied blindfolds on themselves, making sure they could see nothing. Then with a deep breath, the two stepped into the stairwell.
“Just follow the sound of my voice,” they heard Nikita say.