“Marie!” Jimmy’s voice came from the Northern Hemisphere wing, and Marie looked at Janet, who looked straight back at her and shrugged.
“Coming,” she called, and rolled her eyes. Janet smiled, and Marie left.
Coming into the wing she saw that Jimmy was in the catalogue room, sitting at the PC.
“Marie! What do you know about the de Havilleau collection?” he asked, not turning around. His back was blocking the computer screen from her.
“Um, I don’t think I know anything,” said Marie trying to think why the name sounded familiar. “Er, it sounds a bit familiar though….”
Jimmy turned around, and then adjusted the computer screen so that Marie could see it. The web-page from yesterday was up and visible on it, and immediately she remembered.
“Oh that!” she said. “I was researching my — our statue, and I found that there’s a similar one in the de Havilleau collection. I don’t think it’s in as good a condition as ours though.”
Jimmy’s face, which had been stern, suddenly lit up with a wide, brilliant smile.
“Really?” he said, sounding childishly excited. “Mine is better?”
Marie nodded. Jimmy was prone to mood swings and being oddly excitable, but this was a little unusual even for him.
“You’re sure they still have it? They’ve not put it away, or sold it on?”
“The website’s got a picture of it,” said Marie. “It’s still on display I think.”
“Fantastic!” Jimmy was almost bouncing up and down with excitement. “Do you think we should take it down there to show them?”
“Why?” Marie’s face was neutral, as she could guess that Jimmy really wanted her to say ‘Yes’.
“Because they’re the de Havilleau collection and we’re just Jimmy’s little museum in Oakvell,” he said. “We could go and show them that they’re not the only ones with rare and delicate artefacts!”
“It’s not very safe though, is it?” said Marie. “If we have to transport it down to London and back it might get broken.”
“I got it all the way back from L–“ said Jimmy, and abruptly stopped himself. “I got it all the way in one piece, didn’t I?” he concluded. “But you’re right, if Oscar sees it and it is better he’ll only want to get it for himself, or see that I can’t have it.”
“Oscar de Havilleau, bon vivante and gentleman adventurer,” said Jimmy. His words dripped with bitterness, and his eyes were as hard and grey as flint. “We were at school together. He inherited the de Havilleau collection and has been idly adding to it when he feels like it. He’s always bragging about the value and rarity of the objects in there, but he didn’t even find most of them himself. It was his grandfather who was the real explorer, he came back with loads of stuff from strange places. His dad wasn’t a fraud either, not like Oscar.”
Marie nodded, careful not to say anything. Jimmy’s face was focused and intense, and he looked unhappy.
“Well, if we can’t take the statue down there, we can still take a picture of it. Hah, I don’t need to go at all, let’s let Mr. Bigshot de Havilleau stew over how little I care! Go down there tomorrow, Marie, and show them pictures of what I’ve got. I’ll pay for the ticket; actually, I’ll go and get them now. You’ll want a return, I suppose?” He was out of the seat and walking past her before she could murmur yes. “Great. You’ll go down there first thing tomorrow and show them my statue. Make sure you show Oscar. Twice!” He was shouting as he left the wing, and Janet looked up from her desk to see what the commotion was about.
“We’ll show him!” called Jimmy from the front doors.
“You’ll show who what?” asked Janet when the doors had closed and Jimmy had gone. Marie shook her head. “Oscar de Havilleau,” she said. “Whoever he may be. It sounds like Jimmy’s got a bit a grudge going on. He’s sending me down to London tomorrow to look at their statue and tell them our mine. Ours, I mean. And to tell them how much better it is than there’s, too. He wanted me to take it with me at first.”
“Lucky you,” said Janet. “You get a day in London! Oh wait, is he making you pay for your own ticket?”
“No, he’s gone off to buy it now,” said Marie. “It’s just London though, it’s just a bit bigger than here.”
Janet’s eyes widened and her mouth formed a little round O. “Haven’t you been to London before?” she asked.
“Only when I was little,” said Marie. “I think we went to Madame Tussaud’s, you know, the wax place.”
“Waxworks,” said Janet.
“Yeah. It was a lot of walking. I remember my feet hurting a lot. And then it took ages to get back home again. We were on a coach I think.”
“Oh my,” said Janet. “Well, it’s probably not going to help you to think of London as being like here only bigger then. It’s a lot bigger. Much, much bigger. And busier, and more full of people, and they’ll all know where they’re going, and they’ll know that you’re in their way. And then they’ll trample you.”
“Don’t be silly!” Marie looked uncomfortable. “You’re just trying to scare me, now.”
“No,” said Janet. She leaned forward over her desk. “Seriously Marie, London’s big, and it’s fast, and it expects you to keep up with it. Don’t go there thinking it’s just like here. And don’t stand in anyone’s way, or you’re going to get shouted at or worse.”
“Or worse?” Marie’s eyes were huge and her face was a little flushed. “They’ll push you out of the way,” said Janet. “And they won’t stop if you fall over. I’ve seen it.”
“Oh yes. I went down there Christmas shopping last year, and it was madness. You’ve never seen so many people, all in the same place, all trying to do their own thing and hating everyone else for being there. It’s like a vision of hell.”
“It’s not Christmas,” said Marie, clutching at the only straw Janet had left for her. “Surely it won’t be that bad!”
“Well,” Janet hesitated, a little unwilling to back down from her vision of London now. “Well, maybe it depends where you’re going. Where’s this museum?”
Marie thought. “I don’t know,” she said. “I forgot to look yesterday, but then I didn’t think I’d be going down there. Let me go check.”
She went back to the catalogue room and woke the computer from its power-save mode. Jimmy had left the bookmarked website up, but it still took her a minute to work out that she needed to scroll the page down to the bottom and find the Contact Us link. That took her to a page with a map, some phone numbers and email addresses, and three names of people who might respond. None of the name, she noticed, were a de Havilleau.
“Kentish Town,” she called out to Janet. “The biggest road nearby is called Kentish Town Road.” She left the room to go back to the reception, but then a puddle of water caught her eye. Surprised, she went over to check it out. It had gathered around the pedestal on which the display case for the new statue was mounted, but nothing in or on the display case appeared to be wet. She ran a finger across the case just to check, and it squeaked a little.
“Exhibition Road is where all the big museums are,” said Janet. “Are you sure that’s the right place?”
“It’s not on Exhibition Road,” said Marie. “It’s in Kentish Town. Did you come in here already?”
“Oh right, fine,” said Janet. “That’s just a bit rough, you know? Not really where you’d look for a museum. No. Why?”
“There’ s a puddle of water here,” said Marie. “Do you think the cleaner’s missed it?”
“Must have done.” Janet walked in and came over to look at it. “Huh, that’s a big one for them though. I thought they just swept up in here.”
“I better get it dried before Jimmy sees it,” said Marie. Janet opened her mouth to make another joke about the fridge and then thought better of it. The look on Marie’s face convinced her that she’d made the right decision.
“Watch out for tourists,” she said instead. “You get loads of tourists around the museums, and they’re all rude. None of them will speak English either, and they’ll just barge into you and knock you over.”
“London sounds very rough,” said Marie. She looked unhappy. “Maybe I shouldn’t go,” she said. “Jimmy will probably go by himself if I tell him I’m not feeling well. I think he just wants to gloat over Oscar de Havilleau anyway from what he said.”
“Oh no,” said Janet. “You have to go! But don’t forget to do some shopping while you’re there. You won’t believe what the shops are like compared with here.”
“I shop online a lot,” said Marie. Janet looked at her, this time considering the slightly too-large blouse and the not-quite stylish skirt. “Really?” she said. “I’d never have guessed!”