“Missing?” I asked, realizing too late how stereotypical my response was. “That’s a shame to hear,” I replied. “Do you have any idea where she went?”
Jean-Marc gave me a look that told me he was surprised that I would ask such a question. Then his expression softened. “How can I fault you for asking? You clearly had no idea about us. It with only kindness, then, that I remind you but the very definition of the word missing is that we don’t know where she might be. I can’t imagine where we should begin looking.”
“But…” I replied, feeling sheeping for even asking. “Did she leave of her own accord? Or do you think somebody else did something to her?”
“We really do not know,” Jean-Marc told me. “She didn’t show up for rehearsal one day, and when we went to her home to check on her, she and her cello were nowhere to be seen. Everything else she owns was there, but not her.”
“So she could have been kidnapped,” I suggested.
Jean-Marc sighed, his expression hopeless. “We have considered that, but with no idea who would do that to her, we don’t know where to even begin searching for her.”
“Well… okay… so when you say ‘we,’ are you referring to the other people in your group of musicians?” I was starting to feel like I was asking all the wrong questions.
He nodded. “His Lordship is quite insistent that we restore her to her proper seat before the night of the ball.”
“A ball… okay…” I looked around the room. “I guess that’s what you do in a place like this.”
Jean-Marc laughed to himself; I could tell he was trying to hold back from laughing harder. “Oh no, dear Leila, His Lordship would never hold his ball here. It will be at his palace, of course.”
I raised an eyebrow at him. “This place isn’t good enough for him?” The place looked like something out of a movie. The only thing more opulent would have been the Palace of Versailles itself.
He caught himself before chuckling again. “I really must ask for forgiveness, my dear. I seem to have forgotten what it’s like for someone who is new here. The only ball that His Lordship holds is the midwinter ball, and it’s the most extravagant one of the entire year.”
“Midwinter,” I repeated. My mind was full of questions, and sorting through which one to ask next was getting challenging. “Right, so it’s fancy. So where is ‘here,’ anyway? This place– and your clothes– make me think I’ve traveled back in time about four hundred years.”
“Ah…” he intoned. He didn’t respond right away, but focused on placing his viola gently into its case. Once he was done fasting the silver clasps, he said, “I shall tell you, Miss Leila, but then I really must be going, and– well, I don’t suppose you brought the key with you, now did you?”
“A key?” Then I remembered the one on the box with the number seven on it. I didn’t mention it right away, though. “Why do I need a key? The door wasn’t locked when I came up here.”
Jean-Marc thought to himself for a moment, eventually nodding slightly, as though from some internal conversation. “The magic here is a mystery that I am afraid I cannot explain right now. For now, I hope you will accept that you are very much welcome here in Tierney Ríocht.”
A bit of information about minuets in general: