An unusual potpourri made its home in Credence’s nostrils even before the shop’s bell stopped ringing. It was comforting, but with an edge of alertness. Raw cinnamon, maybe. Credence couldn’t quite see over the bric-a-brac piled on tables and shelves – books, furs and feathers, and plants of every size and description – but she could hear someone shuffling from the back of the store toward her.
“Can I help you, young lady?” The woman who spoke, rounding a tall container of canes, should have looked old, based on her wrinkles and gray hair, but her skin was a beautiful tone. There was no splotchiness to it, no cracks in its silky surface, like a picture of an elder a child might draw, with no concept yet of the trappings of age.
“You’re Madame Dominne, right?”
“That’s what it says on the sign outside. You look old enough to read,” chuckled the woman.
“I can read. You know what I’ve read a lot about? Witches.”
“Is that so?” The Madame grinned.
“It is. And I think you’re one.” Credence stuck her chin out to illustrate resolution in her claim.
The old woman leaned forward. “Well then, child. Have you come to throw me into an oven or be eaten yourself?”
“Neither,” said Credence. “I want your help.”
Madame Dominne raised an antique pair of spectacles to her eyes. “And what would a sweet girl like you need with a supposed witch?”
“Nightshade,” said the girl. “I have what I think is a pretty good poison recipe, but I can’t find the ingredients.”
The woman frowned, lowering her spectacles. “Killing is a heavy thing to bear. At any age.”
“She deserves it. She keeps hurting my brother, and she’s not going to stop.” The girl stared straight ahead, not a tear in her eyes.
“What you’re speaking of is very serious,” said Madame Dominne. “I’ll tell you what: You tell me more about what’s going on over some tea. Then, if you still feel the same way, I’ll see how I can help you.”
Credence looked at the outstretched hand for a long moment before putting her own inside it. She was right. The woman’s skin was soft.