The Fillion wasn’t as old as the Bellamy, or as big (assuming one could in any way actually gauge the size of a place like the Bellamy, which Veronika was beginning to believe that one – at least when one was her – could not), but it had its share of new-construction oddities, doors which led to tiny triangular closets which happened to have siding on one wall, because at one point that had been the outside, stairways which led nowhere and were used as, again, a closet, this one room in the basement which had once been a parlor on the first floor and now was used for the junior archivists’ break room – finding it two days in a row was one of the tests of actually being an archivist.
It also had a couple ghosts, of course – any place that collected artifacts would end up with at least one eventually.
Standing in the passageway with its ancient file cabinets and its dusty ghost, Veronika wasn’t sure if the whole scene made her feel more at home – she’d definitely made a place for herself when she was at the Fillion, after all – or even more outclassed.
Not just because the space was bigger than the first archive she’d worked at in toto, not just because the cabinets themselves were antiques, works of art that belonged on display – she thought she might even recognize the maker, but she’d have to get closer to do that, and the ghost –
even the ghosts at the Bellamy were a little intimidating.
okay, a lot intimidating
She moved a little closer anyway, torn between curiosity about the cabinets and their contents and worry about the spectre.
“She’s not dangerous, as long as you’re polite and respectful.” Amanana’s voice was pitched low. “You like the cabinets? I thought you might be the sort who would.”
“I’m not sure what sort is the sort that likes cabinets,” Veronika answered in the same tone, “but I suppose that’s me, yes. These still hold some of the original Records?”
“They tried moving it all, but she does like to look things up.” Amanana followed close to Veronika. “I think it’s all she remembers.”
“Does she know -” She tried to be even quieter. “Does she know, does the Bellamy know, how she died?”
“I’m sure the Bellamy does.” Amanana gestured around her, as if indicating the building itself. “But as far as I’ve ever been able to find out, all we know is – and this is mostly an assumption – that she died in the building, somewhere she was never found. That happens less than you’d think,” she assured – if assurance was what she was going for – Veronika. “It’s possible she died elsewhere and something in this section or these cabinets is binding her, but since we have almost certainly identified her – Yvette Alina Knight-West. She went missing at the appropriate time. But questioning her – it has proved to be unhelpful. She doesn’t remember her last days. She doesn’t always even know that she’s a ghost. Not uncommon, but not all that common in spectres with as much sapience and solidity as Miss West-Knight.”
They had been moving slowly towards the cabinets. The woman in question was going through one of the files, fingers actually moving the cards as she thumbed through, clearly searching for something.
“Oh, the records,” Amanan added. “We made – at the time, it was all done by hand – copies of everything here, pulling out one file at a time, and the copies are stored in the public Records area.”
“She really likes her records to stay the way they are, hrrm?”
“Worse.” Amanana smirked. “Worse. She likes her records to be updated regularly. Or she gets techy.”
They were just about three feet away from the woman – the ghost. Veronika looked over the outfit, the shoes, the hairdo. “Early Victorian era? Was she ennobled?”
“Good call, right on both. Yes she was – is, I suppose, considering the current rules about haunts and titles. If she was haunting her home instead of the Bellamy, she would have a chance of still holding her family title. Or, of course, of having been-” Amanana mouthed the word exorcised. Then she raised her voice to a conversational level. “Lady West-Knight, I’d like you to meet a new archivist candidate.”
The specter turned slowly towards them, one hand still holding her place in the files. She glanced back at the files and then turned back to smile at Veronika, although the expression was tight and not all that friendly. “This is a new one?”
Veronika had never heard a ghost be that coherent. She blinked, hesitated, and then remembered herself.
“Yes, ma’am. I am indeed new.”
“You look it,” the woman clucked.
She sounded completely human, completely alive. She sounded real. Veronika managed not to poke a finger at the specter. Who could, she realized, just be a person having her on.
“Why do I look new?” she asked. It seemed like the thing to say.
“Well, for one, you’ve got a button undone, and I know Madam McGee would not stand for that sort of thing, so she hasn’t had a chance to scold you for it yet.”
Veronika looked down at her vest and hastily fixed the offending button.
“For another, you still have a lost look about you,” the specter continued. “You seem as if you’re not entirely certain as if the floor will move under you if you step wrong. Granted, it may; the floors in here can be fickle. The trick is to stop showing that you’re afraid. You gain it in time, if you live – or, I suppose, if you don’t. Thirdly, you have no manners, something I’m told is a matter of the young, that is, you are probably very polite by your own barbarian standards.”
Veronika had been called any number of things in her time in the work force. She lifted her chin a very small amount, forcing herself not to look at all angry; instead, she smiled. “Thank you.” She kept her tone as sincere as she could. One time, a patron of the Fillion had told her that she had breath like week-old carrion. “I have indeed been told I have very good manners for my tribe. I’m glad you noticed.”
“And for the last thing,” the ghost continued, as if she hadn’t even spoken – and who had poor manners again? – “you haven’t brought me a single gift or a new entry. That, beyond everything, tells me that you are new. You want to cross through this passageway, don’t you? And yet you brought nothing. It’s a pity. You might still be showing new at all of your edges and you might be very untidy, but I can see you’d have had the markings of a true archivist had you survived.”