Mike and I were led into the cottage by the woman, who introduced herself as Sapphire and as the ‘doorman’ of Minerva.
“That’s only part of my job, of course,” she had reassured us with a giggle.
“So this is the Minerva that I’ve heard about…” I murmured, in slightly clichéd awe.
“This is but a mere one of our homes; in the city we have another, close to keep an eye on the Tydeus Towers, an innocent-looking building and a luxurious place, if I say so myself.”
The cottage was certainly luxurious. The carpet, which in some rooms was thick and plush, was a purple not so bright that it stood out as unusual carpeting, but a shade enough that it did wonders for the ego; ready for any royalty that might place an honoured foot there. The ceiling was white with plaster swirls as decoration, but the occasional silver and crystal chandelier dipped down into a couple of the hallways. Every door inside the house, in a contrast to the cottage’s exterior, was a deep mahogany, and every fireplace seemed to be marble. As I was whisked past at Sapphire’s brisk pace, I did not get to see all of the decoration that I would have liked to (curiosity was getting the better of me), but I notice a couple of granite busts beside staircases that led to a hidden upstairs.
If I had to work in a place like this, I would be thrilled. Sapphire saw me gazing around and she grinned.
“It’s a beautiful place don’t you think? Of course, we can’t have random people coming to the wood and seeing a dazzling cottage, so we have to use our talents and transform the outside to something simple, yet still as pretty. We’ve even got a vegetable garden out the back! Ah, here’s a room that you can inhabit for the time-being.”
As she pushed open the door for me, Sapphire whispered a couple of words to a younger member of the company who had appeared by her side, the latter giving me surprised looks, and then running off.
“Do sit down.” Sapphire indicated an armchair resting at the other end of the room.
I complied, walking across the chocolate, cream and pale-sky rug and relaxing my tense shoulders against the cozy chair and the throw across it, which I soon found out was velvet.
“Feel free to relax, okay? Chloe’s told me that you’ve had it rough recently; I would like to make you as comfortable as possible during your stay here.”
Why do I get the feeling that you also want to butter me up? I wondered. I didn’t see myself being pampered without trouble, just like the events at the spa earlier.
The young member returned with a nod to Sapphire (who remained standing even though there was another armchair, and a mahogany stool as well), but I noticed that we had lost Chloe and Mike in the process.
“Where’s Mike?” I asked, worriedly. After all, I wasn’t that troubled for the rather unfeeling girl who worked here on a frequent basis.
“Oh, Chloe will have taking him to freshen up. Don’t look so scared; unlike Tydeus, Minerva is not sexist- or cruel. We are only against the men who work in that ruthless company, and I know that you would never be associated with one of them.”
I was passed a transparent, caramel-coloured liquid in an ornate glass. I took a sip and suddenly found myself coughing as the liquid slid down my throat as though it was made of fire.
“What is this?” I said, holding it at arms length.
“Whisky.” Sapphire grinned at me.
“We may be ladies, but that doesn’t mean that we’re soft-hearted. We’re trying to prove quite the opposite, in fact.”
Well, they sure do like to live life to the full.
“But whisky? I don’t think I want to be part of that lifestyle just yet.”
I put the glass onto a wooden coffee table nearby, hearing it ‘chink’ as it touched the stone coasters. Sapphire eyed it.
“Drink,” she said, “You need it, after the shock of the last couple of weeks. You need to gain your strength for what might be ahead.”
I stared at her. It wasn’t the best news I had heard all day.
“What do you mean ‘what might be ahead’?”
“I’m just saying that nothing is over yet. As I’ve heard, the murderer might be after you now… Apparently, you escaped because he misaligned his gun-”
“The ‘Good-shot Gunman’ who missed an easy target, in the form of yours truly. Hmm, so I keep hearing.”
“Indeed. If Tydeus is truly behind all this then Minerva is obliged to put the criminal behind metal bars.
“The thing is: we’ll need your help and you’ll still need our protection, no doubt. Of course, you have the choice to walk away from here now, but I don’t think you will.”
”Aside from the fact that I’ll have no idea how to get home.” I muttered.
Sapphire ignored me.
“I promise that you’ll always be in good, trustworthy hands if you join us, and together we can formulate our revenge.”
Revenge? I thought that was a bit much.