“You can take off those blindfolds now,” said Nikita with relief.
Maxi and Arpin removed them and blinked. The light, while not bright, was enough to make them squint.
“I have to say, those spiders are VERY creative,” remarked the ghost, “They made the most elaborate traps to catch you two. There was one that looked like a flower that folded in on itself and then bloomed again and again. ”
“I’m happy to have frustrated them,” replied Maxi.
“Thank you again, Mademoiselle Nikita,” said Arpin.
“Yes, you really came through, so to speak,” added Maxi
“One of the side benefits of ghosthood. Danger can’t get a hold of me.”
“True. But I miss the little things. Like going out and getting into trouble.”
“Everything thing that has happened means there is trouble enough for everyone,” remarked Maxi.
“Not what I meant.”
“I know. When this is all over we’ll go out and make some mischief.”
“Nothing too illegal,” said Maxi with a smirk.
The Sergeant Gendarme’s whiskers twitched.
“What do you smell?” asked Maxi.
“It’s very faint.”
Maxi and Nikita paused.
“Determination and… Loss.”
“I cannot tell.”
“We need to move,” said Maxi who strode down the hallway towards Monsieur L’Horloge’s office.
The walls and floor flickered from patterned marble to polished wood, then to a faintly luminescent crystal, and then back to the marble. They stood in front of door number twenty-three hundred and seventy-two, the watch-master’s place of business.
Maxi took out her lock picking tools but Arpin shook his head and turned the doorknob. A soft click was heard and the door swung open. The outer office was empty, save for sepia prints of well-known clocks. Behind a crescent-shaped desk sat an automata assistant, its eight arms locked in mid-task.
“They must be in his office,” said Maxi.
She placed her ear on the double doors to the inner office and listened.
“I hear voices, L’Horloge for sure.”
Unfortunately, the doors were sealed and did not open at their approach. Even pressing the open button under the assistant’s desk didn’t help.
“Okay then,” said Maxi as she cracked her knuckles, “Let’s see what’s what.”
Tools were produced and she began to work on the mechanism. A snap sounded and two halves of a delicate implement fell to the floor.
“Maxi. I know that you can do this,” said Arpin.
“I know!’ she snapped, “It’s just that was a rare tool. Replacing it will be very expensive.”
“Perhaps the Coterie du Honor will help cover the cost?”
She laughed and felt immediately better.
“I’ll just add it to the tab.”
“Maybe I can help,” suggested Nikita.
“Can you pick a lock?”
“No, but I can walk through walls.”
Maxi and Arpin looked at each other with rueful amusement.
“Mademoiselle, if you don’t mind,” asked Arpin.
Nikita passed through the door and returned a moment later.
“What’s going on?” asked Maxi.
“L’Horloge isn’t there.”