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00004. Pinky

“wrapped around my little finger”

Maddox is alone, slipping silently through the house, while Iofi and another Maddox wait hidden in the kitchen.

In the dining hall, one of the girls startles them. But they talk their way past her.

They climb the stairs at the end of the hall to the second level.

When they get to the top of the stairs, a large, beefy guard jumps out and swings a fist at Maddox, but they dodge out of the way. Maddox swipes at him with a dagger, and the guard jumps back to avoid its point. The guard swings again and Maddox feints and stabs. The guard barely avoids the attack.

This time the guard lands what should be a direct blow, but his fist goes straight through the side of their skull. The guard stops and blinks a few times in confusion. Maddox whispers a single word, “Snap.”

A second Maddox steps out of the shadows and stabs the guard in the ribs. Iofi lunges forward and strikes him in the head with her hammer, knocking him out.

Maddox tries the single door at the top of the stairs. It is locked. Iofi lays her hands on it and opens it, and they slip through.

At the end of the hallway are two guards, on high alert due to the sound of the scuffle. They pounce, and Maddox turns and runs back down the hallway. They give chase and as they pass through the hallway, Maddox and Iofi attack from behind.

Iofi’s hammer knocks one out in a single blow. Maddox throws a dagger and catches the second one in the neck. He cries out, turns and jabs with his spear. Maddox takes a scratch from the spear, but then stabs again and the guard goes down.

Maddox continues down the hall, leaving Maddox and Iofi behind. They pause to listen at doors as they go.

They finally arrive at Walker’s study. The lights are on. She is sitting at her desk reading papers and making notes in a journal.

Maddox slips silently into the room.

Rose Walker looks up and sets her papers down and sighs, “I obviously need to up my security.”

“Not necessarily. There just aren’t really any doors that can keep us out,” Maddox replies with a nearly apologetic smile.

She smiles back and folds her hands together, waiting.

“I’m looking for somebody,” Maddox continues. “His name’s Blackguard.”

Walker unlaces her fingers, places her hands on the table, and stands.

“I’ve never heard him,” she says, walking around the desk and standing before Maddox. “He’s not one of my clients whoever he is. So why are you asking me?”

Maddox narrows their eyes.

In the hallway, Iofi holds the grimorie in both hands. Her lips move silently as she reads.

In the study, Walker’s smile fades and she falters, hesitates. Her confidence is suddenly, inexplicably shaken. Maddox smirks.

They take a step forward. “Help us find Blackguard.”

“I tell you I don’t know the man!” she protests, taking step back.

Iofi finally steps into the room. The grimorie has been placed back into her satchel. She holds her glass hammer at her side.

“Then find out. Ask your girls.” Iofi says idly, looking around the room. She walks behind the desk and flips through the papers, pocketing one or two of them. Walker frowns.

“We’ll be back in three days,” Maddox warns.

Iofi crosses the room again and lays one hand on the door to Walker’s study. “This door is now one of mine,” she says. She opens it and on the other side is the safe house. Meadowgloom, setting out a tea set, looks up in surprise and lets out a squeak.

Maddox smiles. They follow Iofi through the door and close it behind them, leaving Walker alone once again in the study.

Walker composes herself and crosses the room and opens the door and looks at the empty hallway on the other side, exactly where it should be.