“Of all the rancid, decrepit, foul smelling pox holes this cursed trip has taken us,” said Clackprattle, holding a tissue over his nose, “this is the worst. Are you sure this is the place Pook, sure they came here?”

“The stone bug was very specific,” said Pook, “Marie and Sir John came to this very room, not a few days ago.”

Clackprattle looked around the dingy hotel room.

“And what in God’s name did they do here?” he said.

Clackprattle looked at the only seat in the room and the hat resting on it. He moved towards the chaise-longue and looked critically at the seat. His hand moved to the hat.

“Don’t!” snapped Pook. “Master. I believe it may be…”

He was interrupted by the appearance of some smoke from under that hat.

“Yes,” said Pook, “as I suspected.”

Clackprattle looked quizzically at his servant as the smoke gathered into a column and the hat rose. The smoke formed once more into the shape of a reclining woman, the face obscured by the hat and with a cigarette in a holder protruding from under it.

“It was twenty years ago today,” said the smoke woman.

“How did you know?” said Clackprattle to Pook.

“You say yes, I say no,” answered the woman.

“Madam, I believe that you are… an oracle?” said Pook to the woman. “Is this correct?”

“It’s the dirty story of a dirty man,” said the Oracle.

“She can tell the future?” said Clackprattle. “Tell us what will happen to us?”

“Joan was quizzical, studied pataphysical science in the home,” agreed the Oracle.

“They must have come here with the key piece, asking about where to find the next one,” said Pook.

“She doesn’t make any sense,” said Clackprattle, “it’s all just nonsense.”

“Oracles are indeed most renowned for their circumlocutory manner,” said Pook. “It is believed to be a feature of their puissance, their tenuous grip on the present, that causes them to communicate so.”

“Nothing’s going to change my world,” said the Oracle.

“Well you and her should get on like a house on fire,” said Clackprattle scornfully. “She’d better be a bit more clear though otherwise she’ll get a taste of my hand.”

Pook winced.

“I think… Master, that here a more accommodating, more pleasant approach may be beneficial.”

Clackprattle snorted but fell silent.

“There’s nothing you can sing that can’t be sung,” said the Oracle.

“Madam,” said Pook with a ingratiating smile on his face. “I believe you may be able to, aha, divine what it is we need. Would you be able to assist?”

Behind Pook’s back, Clackprattle took of his glove to reveal his green tainted hand.

“You think you know me but you haven’t got a clue,” said the Oracle.

Pook winced again and Clackprattle glowered, moving forward.

“Madam, I think if any clarity could be forthcoming,” said Pook, “now would be the time.”

“Allez, allez, mettez dans vos chandail,” said the Oracle.

“Enough of this nonsense,” said Clackprattle. “Tell us or die.”

The oracle screamed loudly. Clackprattle moved forward and put his hand where her neck should be. His hand went through and he held onto to nothing. He started to curse when he saw the smoke turn green around his fingers. The roiling body of the Oracle started to turn the same green colour. Finally, and without a sound, the green smoke dissipated. The hat and the cigarette holder dropped onto the floor.

“Die then,” said Clackprattle, sounding bored. “Come on Pook.”

And they walked out the room.

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