“Oh, Yvette!” Amanana’s laugh was musical, sweet, and seemed somehow almost fragrant. It lit up the hallway. The spectre dropped her arm, confusion evident on her face. “Oh, Yvette, did you think I’d forgotten you? Honestly, to think either of us had forgotten you is just rude, when you’d not given us a chance to show you what we’d brought. And for that little show you gave poor Veronika – Yvette, we’re trying to get her to stay, you know, not to run off in disgust. ”
“We’re trying to get them to stay now, on their first day?” The ghost of Lady Yvette Alina Knight-West raised her eyebrows at Amanana. “I was under the impression that the first day was their gauntlet, their proving ground. They can prove nothing if we soft-pedal everything.”
“You know,” Veronika interrupted, “I’ve had jobs that give you hard first days. I’ve never had one before that tried to kill you multiple times on the first day. If this is meant to be a proving ground, one would think it was intended to give an exaggerated impression of a normal day here at the Bellamy, yes?” A little too late, she realized she was speaking to someone who had been killed by the job.
Lady Knight-West didn’t seem to mind, though. She nodded as if Veronika was making perfect sense, which was not all that reassuring.
“Yes, it’s meant to see if you can handle a tough day here. Because we’d much rather know that sooner rather than when we’ve gotten attached to you, you see, and you to us.”
“So a tough day here can involve multiple murder attempts.”
“That would be a very tough day, I’ll admit.” Lady Knight-West peered at her. “Are you saying you don’t wish to work somewhere that has a risk to it?”
“I’m saying-” She caught her voice rising and lowered it mindfully. “I’m saying that I want to know if there’s a chance that the job might try to kill me more than once on any given day. Archiving is a difficult science, I understand, and if I were on acquisitions…”
She thought about Field Team A and shook her head.
… the very well-preserved bodies of the original Field Team A!
“If I were on acquisitions, on a field team, I would be anticipating constant danger. But here, in the building – inasmuch as I can comprehend here in the building for this place – well, I must say that it is beginning to grow vexing. Perhaps even upsetting.”
Amanana’s melodic giggle should have irritated her. Instead, it relaxed her, bleeding off some of the head of steam she’d been building off.
“Oh, you are such a good fit here, Veronika! I am so pleased by you. Yes, indeed. It should be upsetting! Nobody is saying it should not – are we, Yvette?”
Lady Knight-West opened her mouth and then, perhaps wisely, closed it again.
Amanana continued blithely. “There are things that should be changed. Some of us have gotten too used to them, I’ll admit, and thus we are somewhat blind to them. Some of us simply have tried too many times. But part of the reason we – well, I – want you to stay so badly – I can’t speak for the others, you see, at least not without at least trying to talk to them – is because if you are good and you are angry, or at least, mmm, vexed, then perhaps you will have the fire to change things.”
Veronika swallowed another surge of irritation. She looked at Amanana and considered her words carefully. “You want me to change things. Because you…?”
“Because we all have reasons that we do not try anymore, I’m afraid.” Amanana’s smile was sad and a little strange. “And that is all I can tell you on that.”
“I can tell you something else.” Lady Knight-West cut in abruptly, moving closer to Veronika in a way that reminded her that the lady was not human anymore. “Not much, either, but watch what you sign. Read it twice, preferably thrice, and preferably widdershins.”
Both women – horned and ghostly – stared intently at Veronika. Slowly, she nodded. How did one read something widdershins?
She supposed she was going to have to find out, and preferably sooner rather than later.
“Thank you both.”
“And as for my token-” Amanana spoke as if they’d been having a much lighter conversation. “Yvette, I wanted to tell you of a death. A sad one, yes, but one to be recorded.” She looked intently at Veronika, meaningfully.
For a heartbeat, Veronika held her breath, somehow convinced that the death to be recorded was her own.