An old, homeless man sat on a bench far from Sigrid. She watched as a flock of pigeons descended on him, drawn by the stale baguette he held dearly between his grubby fingers. Clenching so tightly rubbed crumbs off the bread which tumbled to the ground, which drew the birds. The man flailed his arms and shouted; none of the tourists took notice. They dwelled in the shadow of Notre Dame De Paris, and a raving bum wouldn’t ruin their vacation. Sigrid simply smiled, knowing that sometimes what you hold draws unwanted attention.
The key was in knowing what you held, and using it to your benefit. She searched the crowd for August. He was an American, and she would notice him easily in the rolling tide of Europeans. His bewildered glances and shabby jeans that dragged on the ground gave him away. Sigrid crossed her long legs and gazed upwards, seeming nonchalant.
“Ms. Koenig?” asked August, adjusting his glasses like binoculars. Sigrid locked eyes with him, parting her lips in a wide, friendly smile. She imagined this was what vampires felt like as they lured their prey.
“Sigrid, please, August. No need for formality. Here, take a seat.” She indicated a spot on the bench next to her. The spot was just wide enough for August. Sigrid didn’t want to leave him too much room; she wanted him to smell her, to touch her slightly, and to be intrigued by her. She knew that he would take her bait; she learned a lot from the letters he sent her pursuant to the meeting.
When August sat next to her, he kept his hands on his lap, his fingers fidgeting slightly. He seemed nervous, and it was because he didn’t have the book. Sigrid’s scheme was panning out nicely. Her letters were enough to make August want to meet her for more reasons than The Vampire Folio. He certainly wanted to be her friend (perhaps more?) or he would not have taken a seat.
“How have you found Paris so far? Very beautiful, yes?” She asked, placing her mostly empty satchel on her lap. She could smell a fresh scent coming from August’s skin. He had just showered; his hair was still damp.
“It hasn’t been kind to me so far, I’m afraid. A witch hexed me, and then…” His pause filled Sigrid with glee. He didn’t want to disappoint her. “And then someone stole The Vampire Folio. They took it in the early morning. My partner and I tried to catch the thief, but we lost her. The city is a maze, a net cast over the land that a visitor can’t escape. I’m sorry.”
“I don’t know what to say. I wouldn’t expect someone to do something so brazen. Even so, they must have caught something on the hotel’s cameras.” Sigrid knew that nothing was caught on the cameras. She had erased the records herself.
“The cameras had an issue. Whoever stole the folio got to them before anyone else could. It suggests an inside job to me. Minerva’s checking the hallways for psychic traces of the book. The magical signature from the book is weak, but she’s very sensitive.” Sigrid placed her hand on August’s in consolation. She saw the pinkness flooding his face and knew that there was something she could exploit.
She knew August felt lonely and out of place. She knew that he wasn’t attached, and she knew that he was longing to make a connection with somebody. Sigrid considered what she knew of Tabitha’s plan, and the subtle changes that had taken place. With Quaashie dead and The Vampire Folio out of her hands, she was feeling exposed. If it came down to it, she couldn’t stand against Thorkell without help. She fought an icy shiver that gripped her spine when she momentarily thought of her old master’s cold stare.
“I might be able to help you find it. I know the city fairly well; I spent a year here after college.” Standing, she brushed off her skirt and slung her satchel over her shoulder. “You have my number. I have a lot to do this afternoon, but tonight would work out well,” she said, leaving August behind.
She went over her mental checklist and crossed off another item. She added a few minor pieces of business, but was glad that everything seemed to be going her way. Next, she would have to pay a visit to Claude Hooper-Bukowski.
August sat serenely by the Seine. The curving stone stairs offered little in comfort, but they did offer a sense of perspective. They belonged here, but he did not. August was always drawn to stairs when he was an art student. He liked their regularity; the interplay of shadows and lines, and the slight sense of foreboding appealed to him. As people came and went, they took no special notice of him, and he was thankful.
His entire time in Paris was nothing but ill fortune for him. Hexed and vexed, he sat and considered the speech he was scheduled to make in a half hour. He’d talk to a meeting room filled with magicians younger than him, telling them about how he has coped with ending the existence of supernatural creatures. Months ago, it seemed like a great idea, but now he wasn’t so sure. Much of his coping had been simple avoidance; if he didn’t think about it, it didn’t needle him in the slightest.
He wondered how Mr. Kane managed to do it. To be so cold to another living thing seemed more inhuman than a vampire. In the corner of his eye, August saw a young woman wearing an old-fashioned suit with a high collar. He thought that it had to have belonged to her great-grand father: it was patched lovingly with bright bits of fabric that contrasted the dull brown tweed.
The girl’s hair was wild and red as a fox. Her make-up was once carefully applied and whimsical, but it had smudged and run. She was an Elf, and she seemed miserable. She walked to the bank of the river and looked down at its depths. She leaned forward, and took a step. August was surprised at how quickly he could call a Bridge of Faith; the Elf seemed shocked when her step landed her on an invisible platform rather than in watery oblivion. She turned to face August, her eyes narrowed and accusatory.
“How dare you!” she shouted in English. “What gives you the right?” she continued. As she stepped further out onto the Seine, the Bridge of Faith supported her. In a fit of futility, she simply sat, hovering above the water on the invisible platform.
“I’m sorry.” said August, unsure of what he should say. “I thought you were trying to kill yourself.” Their scene began to attract onlookers like a car accident. Passing tourists gawked, pointing at the floating Elf and snapping photos.
“I was,” she said, turning her head away.
“Not today, it’s too nice,” said August, still operating in unfamiliar territory. The Elf simply sat in a huff, crossing her arms. “I’m not good at this kind of thing,” admitted August. “I’m sure that we can sort things out. Just come back to the walkway. We can talk.”
She sat inconsolably for a few more minutes before she stomped her way back to dry land. The crowd around them applauded gleefully. Some straggled behind to see if there would be a kiss. The Bridge of Faith that August erected kept her still floating about a quarter inch over the earth.
“Are you happy, mister?” she asked. The Bridge of Faith that August erected kept her still floating about a quarter inch over the earth, affording August a view of her violet eyes that shimmered with flecks of scarlet.
“You must have more to say than that, or else you wouldn’t have come back,” said August daringly.
“What do you want me to say? The dream’s over and my kind is doomed. One less won’t matter,” the Elf spoke softly, sadness slowly replacing her anger. “America’s a joke, Europe failed me, and I can’t go back to…”
“Well, you can’t go anywhere if you are on the other side of the lawn. Maybe there’s a solution,” said August.
“I’m all pointy ears,” joked the Elf darkly. August felt his ego deflating like a soufflé: he hadn’t planned this far and had no avenue of escape. Her eyes darkened when he didn’t respond. “Well, thanks for the help anyway,” she said, “At least I know you aren’t all the same.”
“I know someone who might be able to offer you some perspective,” said August after a short pause. “She’s much better with this kind of thing than I am.”