Today’s blog is the continuation of, Welcome to the Valleys. If you would like to catch up with the tale, the first section can be found at this link
Jeremy was still attempting to process how to handle Senator Merkot’s sudden appearance when, to his shock, the lift began to go down. They descended several floors before the car came to a halt and Walter had to put his hand on Jeremy’s shoulder to keep him calm. Merkot had spent the trip with his back toward the others in the car, but after the doors opened he turned back towards Jeremy. As he spoke his smiled returned, “Oh, I’m sorry. It’s a Senator’s prerogative to override the lift and make their floor a priority. I don’t like the use the privilege much, but I’m afraid I am in a rush. Please forgive me.” He held out his hand a second time, which Jeremy reluctantly accepted. Then, the Senator nodded to Walter, turned, and exited the car. The doors shut behind him and Jeremy exhaled in relief.
Terrin was the first to speak as the car returned to it’s ascent. “What was that about? And how in The Valleys did he know what lift we’d be in?”
Michael frowned, “One of the presidential guards must have passed on the information. I’m guessing it’s a message to Satal, letting her know she’s not as secure as she believes.”
“Are we in danger?” Jeremy’s voice betrayed more fear than he wanted to convey. He was relieved to see Michael shake his head.
“No, Merkot is both ambitious and paranoid. But he’s not stupid. Like I said, he probably wanted to send a message to Satal. He wants the president to back off from opposing his moves.”
“But what if…”
“Jeremy,” cut in Michael. “Merkot’s message isn’t about violence, it’s about information. If he can figure out where you, one of her most securely protected guests, is going to be – then what else does he know?”
Jeremy shrugged, but before he could reply the lift halted once again and the doors opened. As the three friends exited the car they were greeted by a young woman seated behind a counter.
“Ah, you must be my morning appointment! I’m sorry to say, but you’re running late. I expected you fifteen minutes ago!”
Jeremy cocked his head in confusion. Having just met the man who’d chased he and his friends across the Inner Valleys made being late for an appointment seem absolutely other-worldly. He stared at the woman, who clearly expected a response. Finally, he offered a definitive, “Uhh, sorry?”
Jeremy was immediately aware this was not a satisfactory response. The woman’s lips tightened in frustration and her eyes lost their congenial flicker. Terrin finally stepped in and came to the rescue, “Our apologies. The president kept our charge a bit longer at breakfast than we expected. And on our way to the appointment we were redirected by Senatorial Privilege.”
The warmth returned to the woman’s eyes as she nodded. “I see. Well, life here in the residences can play havoc on appointments, that’s true.” The woman stood and motioned to Jeremy, “Well, young man, we’ll just have to work doubly quick so your schedule doesn’t become even more behind.” When Jeremy hesitated and glanced over at Michael she motioned to Jeremy a second time, but added, “And of course your escorts may accompany you.”
Relieved, Jeremy nodded and followed the woman into open room. Several chairs were set in front of mirrors, and he noticed several other people had arrived earlier than himself. The other patrons were seated these other chairs, having their hair styled by attentive workers. The woman led Jeremy to a vacant chair, but before allowing him to sit she reached up to his hair and ran her fingers through it.
“Oh, I can’t work with this at all. You’re hair is a mess.” She pointed to a sink near the rear of the room and said, “We’ll just have to wash it first, go ahead and have a seat.”
Jeremy complied and sat in a chair which had it’s back to a sink filled with soapy water. As the woman tilted his head back she began to chat, “I’m Ann, by the way, and I’ll be your stylist for this morning. You just sit back and relax and I’ll take care of everything.”