It didn’t take long to get a reaction, like poking a bear. It wasn’t the reaction I expected.
I’d expected them to try to kill me again. I hadn’t expected an invitation to afternoon tea. Her Ladyship, apparently, was in town.
Maybe she didn’t have any more control over them than Ivory Cane did. That would certainly explain the peaceable approach. I wasn’t about to turn it down.
I wasn’t about to go alone, and the idea of taking Thea to afeternoon tea? I’d rather take Mr. Otter – he had that slight hint of refinement to him, despite everything else but, as usual when I actually wanted the guy to show up, he was nowhere to be found.
So I took Kanesha. The tea was at a high falutin hotel and we swung by the house to get the best clothes we had.
Which were still not great. Maybe I should go on a Goodwill hunt, try to find something better than a plain, but clean, set of slacks and a polo shirt. At least we found something to wear other than jeans – which would have undoubtedly got us thrown out of the place. Still, I felt very shabby as we climbed the steps into the lobby.
The dining room was already set up and a few groups had gathered. A string quartet was warming up at one end. I winced a bit at an off note – there was nothing uglier than an out of key violin, but it was corrected quickly.
A freaking string quartet. “This place is like a billion dollars,” I whispered to Kanesha.
“Just walk like we belong here. Pretend you’re the Queen of England.”
I laughed nervously but wasn’t surprised that she knew how to handle this, somehow. Or maybe she had to walk like she belonged there more than I did. I didn’t really know what it was like to be her or her me. Nobody did. Even a telepath wouldn’t, I thought.
Her Ladyship waited at a table. I was not surprised to see that she was old. Not frail needs a walker old, but that sort of lit from within old that comes from a life well and long lived. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d already hit triple digits.
“Jane,” she greeted. “And your friend?”
“Kanesha.” Not giving a last name, which I thought was smart of her.
I pulled out a chair and sat down, feeling very uncouth and barbarian and out of place.
“I’m glad you came to meet me. I thought it best to meet somewhere…that you might not believe I would let get shot up.” Her accent was upper class British. Maybe she was, quite literally, a lady.
“I appreciate it…” I glanced around. No, this would not be a place for random violence. The quartet had stopped tuning and started playing.
“Debussy, G Minor,” her Ladyship supplied. “It will do. So.” Her gaze fixed on me, blue eyes in parchment crinkled face.
I know the parchment thing is cliched, but that was really what it looked like in that moment. “So. What would it take to convince you to call off the hounds?”
She did not answer, but that might have had something to do with the tuxedoed waiter who poured our tea and then set out a variety of tiny sandwiches with the crust cut off. Had to be something British. I waited until he was gone, keeping an expectant gaze on her. Kanesha seemed to be watching the rest of the room.
For trouble, no doubt. Finally, she spoke, “Some of them have a habit of slipping their leashes.”
“I might point out that if you’re wrong about letting me live, you can always kill me later.”
She laughed at that, a tinkling laugh. “Maybe.”
I leaned across the table slightly. “Give me the prophecy. The actual wording. I want it.”