Jay led Isellta out of the cell and closed the door behind them.
They headed towards the staircase.
Robin took a deep breath and exhaled through his nose. He opened his eyes.
Somethin’ woke me up. What the heck was it?
He wrinkled his nose at the scent of anise and cloves in the air.
Wonder who that coulda been. Sure weren’t that stupid Caten monkey. He freakin’ reeks of garlic. Olessa, that rotted masked freak, stinks like burnt olive oil. ‘sellta don’t smell like nothin’.
So, who was here and why?
The door at the top of the stairs closed.
He glanced in that direction. The bars on his muzzle and the bars all around the cell obscured his vision. His inability to turn his head didn’t help matters. As best as he could tell, no one was on the stairs.
Who was here?
Jay carried Isellta to Preyuna’s room. They’d both agreed that would get them there faster. There would be other chances to practice walking.
Isellta leaned his head against Jay’s shoulder and thought over and over about what he was going to tell Preyuna.
Jay won’t be happy, but I need to do this. I have to do this.
Jay, I’m sorry.
The guard opened her bedroom door. “Oh!”
Isellta raised his head. “What? Oh.”
Preyuna’s bedroom was dark.
She wasn’t in there.
“Well. She’s either somewhere in this house or she’s somewhere outside it.” Jay said. “She can’t go anywhere else. Hey, can you project your thoughts at her and get her to come to us?”
“No. She’s like Momma. I can’t enter her mind. She won’t let me in.” Isellta tilted his head. “Could she be in Mark Caten’s office?”
“I don’t know why she would be.”
“But she could be?”
“Yeah, but look.” Jay shifted Isellta into a slightly better position. “I really don’t want to take you in there. Caten will say hurtful things to you.”
“I know, but that doesn’t matter. I need to talk to Her Majesty.”
“Do you want to tell me—-”
Isellta shook his head before Jay could even finish his sentence. “This is something I need to tell her and just her.” He hid his face in the crook of Jay’s neck so he wouldn’t have to see the disappointment and hurt on the guard’s face.
He’s going to be hurt. But what else can I do?
He tightened his grip on the back of Jay’s shirt.
I’m so sorry.
Hank sighed. Preyuna wasn’t in any of her usual lurking spots, which meant there was only one place she could be.
He opened the door to the staircase room and considered his options: Minimalist wire and steel. Variegated wood. Marble. Art Deco. Cement. Stone. Rock. River pebbles. Pure crystal. Stained glass. Plaster walled. Gold and gray. Midnight blue with silver lights embedded in it. Wrought iron in scrolls and flowers. A webbing of string lights and wood slats.
There were too many options.
If only Dave were here with me…
He snapped out of his thoughts before he could get too carried away. Thoughts about Dave always carried him away.
Hank reconsidered his options, trying to judge which one she’d be most likely to use. He started towards the stained glass staircase, but he stopped.
Is she in any mood to be surrounded by so many paintings of Caten? Would she ever be in a mood for that?
He shook his head and strode towards the wrought iron one.
“Eeeee!” Dave squeaked. “This place is amazing!”
Hank beamed at him. “And each staircase goes to some other place. I mean, they don’t all go to the same floor.”
“You’re so romantic!” Dave took him by the hand. “Come on! I want to explore them all with you!”
Hank laughed and let him lead.
He walked up the staircase alone, but, in his imagination, Dave walked with him.
Babe, be safe. Don’t get yourself killed.