Marie and Sir John, Sabine and Emile crowded into the tawdry room in the hotel on Rue Git-le-Coeur.
“You’re sure it is here?” said Emile, looking around the shabby room. There was little in it but a small unmade bed, an aging chest of drawers, a large mouldy armoire and a tired chaise-longue.
“Positive,” said Sabine. “There is her hat on the chaise-longue.”
They all looked at the chaise-longue and saw a splendid lady’s hat in a very modern style.
“Is she out, perhaps?” said Sir John. “Does she do house calls?”
“No, that’s impossible,” said Sabine. “She lives here. She will be here.”
Emile looked around the room and shrugged.
“Perhaps she is hiding in that armoire?” he said sarcastically.
“Er… I don’t want to bother anyone, but I think the chaise-longue has caught fire,” said Sir John.
They all looked back at the chaise-longue where smoke was starting to billow. The hat that had been sitting on it rose into the air on the column of smoke. A lit cigarette in an elegant holder appeared underneath it. Eventually the smoke resolved itself into the shape of a reclining woman, the hat obscuring the face.
“Voila!” said Sabine triumphantly. “I told you.”
“Je suis lui comme tu es il comme tu es moi,” said the smoke woman. “Wait, too many, too many. And you, Madame, are too early.”
“Let’s leave boys,” said Sabine, “I believe we are confusing her.”
She ushered Sir John and Emile out of the room leaving Marie alone.
“Hello,” said Marie, “I want to ask you something.”
“Picture yourself in a boat on the river,” said the Oracle of Paris.
“I have this thing, this key part,” continued Marie, getting the wire out of her handbag and showing it to the Oracle. “It is part of a set of four, I need the next one.”
“They get by with a little help from your friend,” said the Oracle.
“Do you know where the next part is?” said Marie. “I need to find it before, before some others do. The others are bad, very bad people.”
“He one holy roller,” said the Oracle. “I’d like to be under the sea.”
“Please,” said Marie, “if you could tell me something that would help.”
“Sunday morning go for a ride,” said the Oracle. “Doing the garden, digging the weeds.”
“I… I can’t make sense of what you say,” said Marie. “Can you be clearer, can you say something that names the place?”
Suddenly the column of smoke dissipated and the hat dropped to the bed.
“Fine!” said Marie in frustration. “Just go then.”
She stood there in silence, perplexed by it all. There was gentle knock at the door.
“How is it going?” said Sir John hesitantly, through the door.
“She has gone,” said Maire.
The others came into the room. Marie looked crestfallen.
“And…” said Sabine expectantly.
“I am not sure,” said Marie, “that I know any more now than I did before.”
*The Oracle of Paris modified from Edouard Manet’s Nina de Callais 1873 – Public Domain