Alice put down her coffee on the table. She had long since given up trying to protect Maia. She could look after herself. Whisper, Maia’s long sword was concealed in a circular sheath that made it look rather like a cheap, clunky umbrella. Even without this Maia still had formidable defences. Alice ordered another café latee and gazed across at the hotel. Like Maia, she had cut her hair short, the ends tapering in towards her long neck. As always no haircut could ever hide her fine Italian Asian cheekbones or exquisite eyebrows so she too wore a hat, not a baseball cap like Maia but a Turin Borsalino hat which made her look more masculine and was more her style. She opened Maia’s grandfather’s diary to the back, with the photo of Maia as a baby, her beautiful mother Gabrielle and her adventurous father John, whose body Alice had seen lying on the Ark of the Covenant, slumped between the two angel figurines. Alice had promised to guard the diary and sword with her life while Maia went after Kepler. She pushed the photo aside and studied the Angel Sigil with Gabrielle’s idiosyncratic flowing script. Alice had used this same Sigil to bring them here, albeit rather awkwardly. She had watched Altair die slowly in Maia’s arms. Alice would have given anything to take his place. She was ready to give up her life at any moment for her best friend. Secretly, she absolutely adored Maia to the point where she wondered if she might have hidden a lover’s desire. She shook her head. She had Ben. Cool, calm, collected Ben. Expert in Cryptozooology and loyal to a fault. The total opposite of unpredictable, twitching nosed Alice. She hadn’t had the least interest in long term relationships until she’d met Ben. He had helped them get out of the UnderWorld when Maia had lost her head after Altair’s death.
The girl standing in front of Alice took her breath away. She was the spitting image of Maia. Alice hadn’t seen her come in so she could be a waitress. She had a simple black top and black skirt, slightly unusual for this sector, so she stuck out immediately. Where Maia’s hair was curling and honey blonde, this girl’s was long straight and blue black. The girl’s skin was as pale white as virgin snow whereas Maia’s own skin was olive and tanned. But her eyes were the same deep startling hazel green and her face that perfect oval, slightly long face.
Alice nodded and tapped her coffee cup.
“Monkey’s coming our way,” said the girl. “Could be real bad.”
It was like she was speaking in some kind of code.
“Monkey?” said Alice.
“Better get out,” said the girl.
“Actually, I’m waiting for a friend…” said Alice.
“Alcyone,” said Alcyone without being asked for her name.
“I said…,” her voice slowed deliberately as if she was speaking to a preschooler… “Better…get…out…NOW!”