Lilith found a certain joy in conducting job interviews. She’d had three bright-eyed hopefuls in the hot seat so far today, being grilled all round until they were blabbering incoherently and weeping. Some might call her interrogation methods harsh, but she needed a specific kind of person to be entrusted with her personal paperwork.
Someone who would not snap under her heavy pressure.
“Marshall Law,” Lilith called to the waiting room.
“Sup doc?” came the response. Lilith gently bit her tongue, eyeing this man with disdain. Who in hell would rock up for a job interview wearing pool shoes?
Usually, being able to see a candidate’s toes would be enough to send them straight out the door, let alone his overtly casual greeting to his potential future employer.
However, his mind was quiet, he was remarkably calm and he was wonderfully well-proportioned, a fact not missed by Gertrude and Penelope who were both watching with interest.
“Right this way, Marshall.”
It’s for your mother’s own good, Jessica.
Ralf sighed as Wilbur hung up abruptly from their one-sided phone call. Ralf’s new deputy would be arriving imminently and Wangshaft expected the transition to be as seamless and discreet as possible. Ever paranoid, Wilbur would not disclose who it was on the phone, but it was someone who had ‘years of experience’ and could be ‘trusted implicitly’.
Translation; someone else completely corrupt.
Ralf dared to turn his phone to silent now that it was unlikely that Wilbur would call again; he couldn’t handle the constant trill of messages from his sister and concerned friends. How he longed to grab his jacket and walk out, leaving behind the WBPD, the Wangshafts and the shitstorm he and his unwilling nephew had slowly been caught up in.
As if that could ever happen.
Everyone is disposable.
Was that Wilbur hinting at Chase? Had Chase found out what Wilbur was hiding in his precious tower?
Shit. Ralf had no idea what secrets that building held, but he knew one thing for certain; it’s worth killing over.
Ralf gulped. He turned his attentions to the open case file before him; the hotel manager assault. The hotel had finally gotten round to sending him the CCTV he’d requested, but he wasn’t sure if staring at hours of footage from the reception of the Glimmerbrook Grand would provide enough distraction from the heavy sense of hopelessness.
Maybe tomorrow. Maybe never.
He heard the main station door open and the soft pad of feet across the carpet tiles towards his office and waited with bated breath to see who exactly Wilbur deemed suitable to fill Chase’s shoes.
Oh no, no, no.
Wilbur’s daughter-in-law herself. Long-suffering wife. New mum. Tornado in trainers.
“I can see you’re about as happy as I am to have to work together in this craphole, under Saggy Balls’s thumb, Widdlefinkle,” Beth scoffed. “Just don’t expect me to be your skivvy and we might both survive this thing.”
“So then, Marshall. I’ve been looking over your resume—“
“My what now?” Marshall asked as Lilith held up a piece of paper. “Oh! Is that what it’s called?”
Lilith blinked a few times as she fought to contain her irritation, but continued smoothly, “It says you have eight years experience working in administration for a swimwear company. Tell me about that.”
“Yeah, so basically I was, like, admin for eight years for a swimwear company.”
“Can you elaborate?”
“Can I what?”
Lilith sighed. “What sort of administration did the job involve?”
“Um,” Marshall looked around, his eyes landing on Lilith’s filing cabinet. “I filed stuff.”
“Filed stuff,” Lilith repeated. “This role calls for a little more than filing stuff. What other duties did you have? Expenses? Ordering? Payroll?”
“I dunno what any of that is, but Penny reckons I can do it, so how hard can it be?” Marshall smiled. “To be honest with you, I just did modelling in that job, but that’s probably obvious, right?”
“Modelling,” Lilith repeated. “Right well I think I’ve heard enough. Thank you for your time, Mr. Law. Let me see you—“
“Duh, of course,” Marshall responded, starting to unbutton his shirt from the bottom. “Do you want everything off or just the top half?”
Lilith had seen an awful lot in her three hundred and twenty-one years and was rarely rendered speechless, but watching Marshall’s midriff suddenly appearing before her certainly almost did that. “What in hell’s name do you think you’re doing?!” she managed.
Marshall paused, his shirt half undone. “Showing you the goods. I was gonna come here just in board shorts, but Penny said I should probably wear, like, clothes.”
“Why – what?” Lilith spluttered.
“Like, I don’t wanna insult your interference, but I saw the previous guy you got in here and, well, you don’t wanna be hiring any mingers, you get me? Bad advertising.” Marshall shrugged. “And you did just say ‘let me see you’.”
“Out, you moron! Let me see you out! Get out of my sight before I- can I help you?!”
“Nah, I can fasten my own shirt,” Marshall replied but Lilith did not respond. She was glaring at the space behind him where three humans had appeared, uninvited, in her office.
The three serious-looking, darkly-dressed figures were an amplified void against the bright pistachio walls. The woman at the front stepped forward, shadowed by the surly suits she was flanked by. When she spoke there was no question in her voice and no emotion. “Marshall Leonardo Law. Come with us.”
“Damn, Doc. I was already gonna leave, you didn’t need to get your bodyguards in.”
Lilith ignored Marshall, focusing instead on the woman who had commanded him. “I demand an explanation, Ms…”
“Dudley, Sigrid. SBI,” the woman said, flashing a badge that caused Lilith’s words to dry up in her throat. “Mr. Law, we wish to speak to you about the disappearance of one Chase Crooks.”
“Yeah, he’s been missing for days,” Marshall replied. “But I don’t know nothing.”
So you do know something, Lilith heard Sigrid think. Instead she simply repeated again. “Come with us.”
Marshall got to his feet without argument – a level of compliance that would have certainly worked in his favour for getting this job, had he had half a brain – and was escorted from the room.
As the door opened, Lilith realised that Penelope was not at her usual station, the pieces fitting together swiftly in her keen mind.
Chase Crooks? He was Penelope’s ex-boyfriend, I’m sure – she whined about him enough – and didn’t Marshall mention that ‘Penny’ told him to wear clothes? Add in that, according to Sigrid’s current thoughts, Chase had apparently been… drained of blood and thrown in the river?
“Why have you taken Penelope?” Lilith asked trying to remain calm. “You can’t just burst in here and arrest my staff without consulting me.”
“I think you’ll find that I can, Dr. Vatore,” Sigrid sneered. “But who said anything about arrest?”
Lilith faltered. “I simply assumed.”
“Once a con, always a con?” Sigrid replied coolly. “I must say that it’s admirable of you to offer Ms. Spender an opportunity. I’m sure she is very grateful for your employment; that it perhaps offered… opportunities.”
“She’s efficient. Trustworthy,” Lilith lied, unsure why she was defending the girl when it might be implicating herself.
“And easy to keep quiet, I do imagine.” Sigrid nodded at Lilith’s silence and headed towards the door. “That is all for now, Dr. Vatore. I’ll see myself out.”
Lilith stood alone in the office, reeling. Drained of blood and thrown in the river.
Seth? No, that was not his style. Possibly Caleb; although he wouldn’t ever choose to feed from a man, not after Nathaniel. Had it been one of the three girls? A combination of the three?
Someone else entirely?
Having the SBI involved in an investigation for her receptionist’s ex-boyfriend seemed like overkill. Those guys usually dealt with very high-profile crime, terrorism, security threats. So this meant that either Chase had been someone secretly significant or there was more to it. Either way, Lilith probably wasn’t getting Penelope back any time soon and it was likely only a matter time before Sigrid would be back to talk to her or to search her surgery.
She’d only managed three years this time. Three bloody years and here she was, once again, needing to start over.
Maybe it was time to just give up.
Lilith didn’t get any deeper into that depressing thought; it was drowned out by the sound of screaming.
“What the heck was that?” Gertrude gasped. “I didn’t know that the Watcher made people that ugly! She needs the works, starting with that nose! Oh my goodness!”
Lilith tried to laugh over the searing rage. “Indeed. So, how are feeling, Ms. Bapflap? It’s normal to feel a little light-headed after the blood-letting procedure, but I must be closing up now.” She thought for a second, best not to arouse suspicion. “Shall I pencil you in for another appointment?”
“I’m fine, but,” Gertrude shook her head. “I didn’t expect Penelope to be dragged away by men in suits!” She motioned towards the scene outside where Penelope was being wrestled into a waiting car as onlookers filmed on their mobile phones. “I demand discretion, Lilith.” Gertrude explained, “I don’t want the world knowing that I have surgery! How am I supposed to leave here now? I can’t just stroll out of the door in front of those cameras!”
I’ll throw you through the window, if you wish, Lilith thought. “I can offer you an empty cardboard box to wear over your head?”
Gertrude tutted. “You know, Lilith, your work is top-notch but your people skills are sorely lacking. I think I might be better at Caliente’s after all.”
The door slammed behind the over-inflated bimbo leaving Lilith alone in the room with only the ringing phone and her simmering anger for company.
She was seriously considering smashing the place to smithereens, devouring all the bags of O-neg and rampaging down the street, but was distracted by a beep from her pocket that completely dissolved her ire and replaced it with a buzzing, nervous energy.
It was a message, from Chuck.
Please tell me vegetarians eat fish.