The man behind the counter was spectacularly unhelpful.
“You didn't see anyone suspicious in here?” She asked, again.
“Even if I did I wouldn't be able to let you know. Store policy. Customer privacy is important,” he said, stiffly.
She leaned forward, surreptitiously. “Not even for... compensation?
Who was she bluffing? That stupid jerk in the tavern had practically demolished her money supply. Still, it was worth a try.
“I don't accept bribes,” he said, icily. “Please get out of my store.”
She tried to think of something to say to convince him, but she could tell it was of no use. Thick-skulled, smug little jerk. She always hated the ones with honor most, because they were just as horrid and couldn't be bribed.
She swallowed back the memory of Harburg and all that place entailed.
She walked out of the store, but lingered, outside, hoping to see someone, something...
If nothing else, she was planning on breaking in and raiding the store register. They must have a customer log, or something.
The owner saw her, hanging around outside. She watched him turn to one of the waiters and point.
She watched the waiter put down his tray and head towards the door, and for a moment she hesitated before breaking into a run, dashing around the corner, but she tripped over a cobblestone and had to catch herself from falling before breaking back into a sprint, and then the waiter had already grabbed hold of her arm.
She whirled around, ready to kick and scratch as necessary, but he let go almost immediately, panting for breath. She saw he was trying to say something.
“What?” She said.
“Manager sent me after you,” he said.
“I noticed. You planning on arresting me or something? I didn't break any laws.”
“No, I... can we move further away?”
They were around the corner and out of eyeshot from the shop, but only just barely. She went along with him for another block and then stopped.
“What is it?”
He looked around nervously.
“You're looking for suspicious people?” He asked.
“You've seen some?” She asked.
He paused. “Well...”
“Where?” she said, barely refraining from shouting it.
He paused again. “I could tell you,” he said. “There were two men. They looked suspicious, but they also forgot to tip, so I followed them home to... um... well...”
She waited impatiently.
“Hex them,” he admitted. “Only they disappeared into some alleyway- but I could show you which one.”
She waited for him to continue.
“Well, that's only if you help me,” he said.
She'd figured that was coming.
“What do you need?”
“I need a bouquet of roses from the florist's,” he said.
She raised her eyebrows. “Why can't you get that yourself?”
“Er...” he said, fidgeting. “Because I've been given a restraining order not to go there.” He flushed, and continued defensively- “it's not my fault they don't understand the beauty of my magic!”
“Flowermancy! It's like necromancy, but with flowers!”
“Uhh...” Mel said.
Clearly the boy was out of his mind.
“So I get you the roses and you'll show me the alleyway?” she asked.
He nodded. “Meet me after my shift, though. If I stay out an longer my boss is going to kill me.”
“Fine,” she said, and walked off.
The flowers cost all the rest of her money.
Damn Edward, that idiot, he wasn't worth this bloody trouble-
He was an idiot, really. He'd probably walked right into some damn dark alley because he thought it looked interesting. He was so completely... so...
She forced the image of him gagged and helpless out of her mind.
“Here's your flowers,” she said, proffering them stiffly.
The boy's eyes lit up. “They're beautiful! Genuine Grande Vin Roses! Oh, the thing I could do... Muahahahahaha-” He stopped midcackle and coughed, self-consciously.
“Sorry. I get carried away sometimes.”
“...Right,” Mel said. “The alley?”
“Right this way,” he said, and led her down several twists and turns to a small narrow street she didn't recognize- slightly distressing, since she'd been working on getting the feel of this place. But Thais was so big...
“Okay,” she said. “Where did they go?”
He shook his head. “I dunno. They disappeared. This is the furthest I can show you. But you've helped me out a lot, thanks!”
“Hey, if you're ever in the need of a flesh-eating zombie rose...”
“I'll keep it in mind,” she said.
Once the boy had left she was alone in the alley to examine it at will.
She didn't believe the men had disappeared.
If so where were they?
There was a sewer grate... they could have gone inside...
She struggled, trying to lift it. It was too heavy.
Could they have lifted it, in time to disappear?
She couldn't rule it out, but...
She looked around. Protruding from the wall was a drainpipe at convenient weist-height... from there it was but a hop-skip to the rooftops.
She considered for a moment and decided it was worth a try.
Using the pipe for leverage, she clambered upwards and then jumped, swinging herself over the roof edge.
She stood up carefully and suddenly remembered her last rooftop excursion, when Edward had been chasing her.
If she was two men trying to hide something...
She looked around.
Four houses, their windowless sides back to back, forming a perfect little hiding spot.
She was about to creep closer when she heard the sound of approaching footsteps.
Panicked, she leaped down into the street and then strolled along innocently as if she'd been a part of the scenery all along.
Just in time, too, she thought, as she cast back a discreet glance and thought she caught a glimpse of a shadow moving over the rooftops.
a/n: "store policy" was typoed as "story policy". true in a different sense. xD