Warning: This work has been rated 18+.
Harry sat on the edge of the first desk in the second-floor offices, ankles crossed and stretched out across the floor. Will was standing on her right in the pencil skirt, hair rearranged, and makeup moved to a more professional version. On the left stood Jud in a brown suit to contradict Harry’s grey, and the familiar lit cigar hanging from his jaw. The new addition to the client meeting line up, James Harding, stood a little to Jud’s left in a blue suit, visibly choking on Jud’s cigar smoke.
Between coughs, Jim glanced out through the window onto the street, waiting for the sign of the client’s car. He didn’t know much about the vehicle or about the clients themselves, but he could guess it would be something fancy and something black. The clients that Harry usually got would always be in something expensive. The car might be a bit old but at that point he had learned they would just call it a ‘classic’. Bart looked down onto the street to see a gray car rolling to a stop in front of their warehouse offices.
So, he was wrong on the count of it being black.
The silvery streak of gray was just as pretentious.
“Harry, I think your clients are here.”
Harry looked back to him from the desk, the spines right above her shirt collar flexing slightly, and Bart saw her head shake slightly. It took only three seconds before his boss was standing by his side, looking down to the people slowly making their way out of the car. The two women were humans in their 40s, dressed in furs and glittering ornaments with a Zinnian bodyguard dressed in a simple black tuxedo.
“They’re not my clients.”
Bart looked down to the street one more time, studying the people who were now opening the front door to the offices. He turned up to her with a questioning look and asked, “No?”
A hand landed on his other shoulder followed by the cigar smoke and Jud was now standing on Bart’s right. Did the man have absolutely no sense of how terrible the smell was? Or did one just lose a sense of that once they inhaled smoke for so long that it stopped being a noticeable issue?
“They’re our clients, Bart. Harry was just being a bit dramatic about that part of the revelation.”
A slight curse was uttered to his left in a language Bart recognized as a branch of Nera, home language of Nerot but most likely something from Harry’s kingdom. To him, the curse sounded like “son of a blasphemous hog”, but Bart didn’t know enough about Nera slang to know if that was an actual curse.
“Hmm what was that, Harry?”
“It was nothing, Bart. Just a little bit of dissatisfaction.”
“Okay but what did that curse mean? I’m not too up on Nerot slang from five hundred years ago.”
He didn’t get an immediate reply. Harry turned about on her heel, walking back across the room and going into her office, and coming back out with a small leather book. Bart hoped that they hadn’t already decided to hand him a pink slip and that this was not going to be a round of brutal insults that he wouldn’t understand. To be fair in all of his worries, Bart didn’t know Harry very well. And Bart was one of the more senior detectives who had been around for all of her shit with Roth and Morrow.
Harry’s hand brushed against the edge of his blue suit while she said, “Oh, don’t worry, Bart.I’m not going to hurt you or anything. This is just a book of old, old Nera insults and slang terms, and the book was given to me by one of my Bevean uncles.”
“Ah Bevea. That does make some sense for what I thought I heard you say.”
She placed the book in his hand, carefully opening the stained binding, moving the satiny bookmark out of the way of the text. Bart started scanning the pages, listening to the elevator slowly rising in the building and knowing that their new clients would be on the floor soon. The clicking would turn into a slight screech at the last impact of the gears on the second floor. This delay would give the group just enough time to compose themselves in front of the desk once again in the perfect advertisement pose.
If everyone had gotten to the offices earlier and managed to arrange themselves in their position, they could have called one of the crime photographers up to shoot a few pictures for their new advertisements. Instead, Bart had stumbled in slightly hungover and watching Harry re-arrange the blinds for most likely the three hundredth time. Bart hadn’t had that much to drink at the actual party but once he talked to the older staff and celebrated with them. And then went home to be with his husband, enviably celebrating with Lorre and spending too many hours soaking in a bubble filled bathtub. Lorre had insisted on adding an insane number of perfumed flowers to float on the top and Bart had to keep from sneezing the entire time.
A booming voice at the door soon called out to their careful composition, announcing, “Their lady ships Anne Harrell and Margaret Ripley.”
From the office view above the street, Bart had really underestimated the amount of fur and jewelry the women were carrying about their person. With just the amount of money the pair of earrings that Ripley was wearing, Bart could have easily bought a small home in the country side. He tried to avoid the more judgmental thoughts while studying their appearance, knowing that it was the deep pockets of people like this that kept the agency’s pro bono work afloat.
Anne Harrell stood at just five feet but wore high heels to elevate her position to match with her (presumed) wife’s own height. The human’s black hair hung in braided sections, wrapped in twining gold and hanging against the open back of the dress. Bart could see all of her dark skin reaching down to her waist, and then slightly beyond when the fur around her hips shifted position. The front of the dress was equally revealing but this time by the sheerness of the material instead of the lack of it.
Her companion, Margaret Ripley, wore a more modest attire of a light orange cotton dress, quite the contrast to her partner’s black silk. Bart had rarely seen that much of a woman and had never really cared to do so. Margaret wore her blond hair in careful braids that wrapped high around her head, gathering in a makeshift crown with rose clips. This is where the modesty of the moment stopped, and he came face to face with the fur coats hanging across their arms. He couldn’t tell the legality of the furs at the current moment, shuffling the thought away to later in the case where the agency might need the leverage.
Harrell was the one to first step forward and her hand went directly into Harry’s while saying, “Ms. Bivens, I spoke to you on the phone briefly about the situation my wife and I are in. I did not realize that you would have your entire executive team present for the matters of the case, we are paying you for our privacy.”
We are paying you for our privacy.
The phrase clicked around suspiciously in Bart’s head and he was quickly wondering what the actual case was. The matters that Harry had just barely revealed in the hours of the early morning pertained to the Lucreskis. These women did not look like they would be a part of that, not through judgement of their appearance or skills or intelligence. They just didn’t look to be the type and the vibe they gave off rubbed Bart in the wrong way, but for clearly different reasons.
Harry had made no answer to Harrell as of yet but Jud had quickly stepped into the line of fire, stopping briefly to extinguish his cigar in the nearby ash tray.
“And what exactly is the case that you care so much about? I have not yet received the details of the matter from my partner but I did take a glance at the check you wrote us yesterday.” Jud stepped closer to Harrell, a questioning glint across his eyes as he asked, “I do wonder what piece of your life you feel a need to keep just so private that you’re willing to pay ten thousand units just to meet with us.”
The wife, Ripley, spoke up quickly to say, “We’ve heard all about your reputation in the circles we travel and we thought that you might need some incentive to listen to our story.”
Ten thousand units.
The money was nothing to people like this.
Bart’s eyes kept glancing over the jewelry that the women were wearing and his opinion was quickly shifting. He was started to get stuck on the fact of how much money they must possess if they put down that much of a retainer. Roth and Morrow was a fairly prestigious company, but it was no longer Roth and Morrow in control. There had been no change in the names above the door but there had been a very obvious change in the management.
It was a total of a tense thirty seconds before Harry raised herself up with a noticeable sigh, legs uncrossed and a lit cigarette soon finding its way into her hand. Harry stood before the menacing Ms. Harrell to say, “Giving me such a complaint about bringing aboard my most trusted staff creates quite a few questions for me as well.”
A ring of smoke was blown out into the room.
“Do you have something against the fact that I brought my business partners into such a business matter? Perhaps you forget Ms. Harrell that with your initial payment of ten thousand and the promise of what you would pay me for completing the task, your act engaged the entire agency to be at your disposal.”
“If I had asked for the entire agency, then we would have walked in the front door without making an explicit appointment.”
Bart saw a slight wink that was thrown Jud’s way but he caught it with his third eye. Harry was making a bit of trouble for all of the promise that came with these clients and he could see the tension rising in Jud’s shoulder blades. This time he was fully expecting the cigar to be relit and moved quickly to the other side of the desk to stand beside Will, keeping his jacket partially open to display his shoulder holster to the clients’ bodyguard.
“Perhaps my team and I should take you two into our conference room to discuss the matters that you informed me of, if you are so worried about talking publicly.”
“You have us here in this so uncomfortable social situation, but we will go ahead and make sure of the details on the floor.”
The tensions further rose in the room during the silence while Will and Bart arranged chairs for the two clients. Harry maintained a steady eye contact with Ms. Harrell while Jud kept watch over Ripley. It was such an easy scenario for everything to go so badly, but Bart kept his cool while taking the coat from Ripley. This slight contact of his fingers with the fur revealed it was a higher quality animal than expected. And that the fur was of such a color that it was probably from some endangered beast of a far-off planetary nation.
This was not speaking well at all.