Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Disappearing Act

The members of the Ariadne Society knew how to throw a party. I ate until I was painfully full, and we all traded stories of our underground adventures. (I stuck to tales of sewers and subway tunnels. I didn’t know them well enough to reveal the secret of the Shadow City.) The only thing that dampened the festive (sometimes raucous) mood was the presence of a rather obnoxious young man seated directly across the table from me.

He’d been introduced as Maurice, and I’d seen him smirk when he shook my hand. But he was so ridiculously handsome and impeccably dressed that I couldn’t resist sneaking a few glances at him. He never looked my way. And while my other dinner companions graciously switched to English whenever my brow wrinkled with confusion, Maurice refused to speak anything but French. The snub couldn’t have been more obvious.

“Don’t let him bother you.” Claire finally leaned over and whispered in my ear. “Maurice is a terrible snob. He is not very popular in the Ariadne Society. Many of us do not trust him.”

“Then why is he here?” I asked.

“Maurice is the last of an old aristocratic family. His father and grandfathers were notorious cataphiles. It's said they had their own maps, and we thought Maurice might have information to share. But if he knows anything, then he hasn’t told us. He’s been completely worthless. In fact, I’m beginning to suspect that he’s afraid of the catacombs. Some of my friends think Otto must have needed him for business contacts. After all, it was Maurice’s uncle who commissioned Otto’s last hedge maze.”

As she finished, Maurice’s eyes landed on me for the first and last time that night. His sly smile made me wonder if he’d heard our conversation, but I refused to squirm. Instead I offered an unfriendly wink and turned my attention back to Claire.

Around two in the morning, the party came to an end, and the members of the Ariadne Society trickled out of the subway station one by one to avoid attracting attention. Claire and I were among the last to leave.

When our turn came at last, Claire flipped the switch on her flashlight, and the station went dark. “Where’s Maurice?” Claire asked once we were halfway up the stairs. “I didn’t see him leave.” I paused to think and heard the sound of footsteps below us. Claire heard them too, and I felt myself being pulled back into the station and shoved through a doorway.

Our eyes adjusted to the darkness, and we peeked at the platform. Maurice was lowering himself onto the tracks. He crossed to the other side and hoisted himself onto the opposite platform. There, he stood motionlessly, and I knew he was listening for movement. When he decided the coast was clear, he called out hoarsely and a second figure emerged.

“Nothing new.” We heard him say in French as the platform began to vibrate beneath my feet. An empty train sped through the station. When it was gone, so was Maurice.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmmmmmm. Very interesting.

10:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, good idea not to mention the Shadow City... That Maurice person is obviously unfriendly...

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is even weirder!

6:03 PM  

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