Those footsteps from last time turned out to be clients after all.
A heavy knock banged against my office door, and before the last echo faded it opened. A tall sallow-faced man strode through. An obviously expensive no-brand tailored suit complemented his artificially tanned skin and silver hair. This was a power player, and the sour look on his face told me he wished he were anywhere else.
His wife contrasted with her husband in almost every way. She was short, no more than five feet , and rather plump. She wore a dress of washed out blue that matched her eyes and her mood. At least when she looked at me I could see a spark of hope in her careworn face.
I hurried around my desk and held out my hand to the woman. “Please, come in.” When she grasped my hand, I gently tugged and guided her to one of my chairs. When she situated herself, I made my way back around my desk and eased into my chair. My gaze grabbed and held hers. “What can I do for you?”
She glanced at her husband, still standing with a look of surprise and annoyance at my lack of deference to his greatness. I don’t do well with deference toward those that expect it. I shot him a look and cocked an eyebrow that said What are you waiting for, an engraved invite?
Luckily, he could read eyebrow. Surprise changed to discomfort and his annoyance deepened. He sat down with such a look of distaste, I half-expected he would pull out a little white hanky and dust off the cushion before his rear deigned to touch it.
I managed not to roll my eyes and looked back to the wife. I opened my mouth to ask again what I could do, but she cut me off. “Mr., er, Doozepper…?”
“It’s pronounced Douzeper, no mister needed.”
She seemed to sag a bit at the even tone in my voice, although in relief or disappointment I couldn’t tell. A small tremor started in her lower lip as the weight of whatever she was dealing with hit her again. I just waited.
I didn’t wait long.
Husband had recovered his equilibrium and took over. “Our daughter is missing. We want to hire you to find her,” he fired off.
I leaned back and steepled my fingers together just underneath my mouth. “How long has she been missing?”
His lips tightened until they disappeared. “Four days.”
I felt confused. I’m not usually called in so soon. Actually, I’m usually not called unless the missing is dead but refuses to stay that way. “What do the police say?”
The wife burst in. “Nothing! They say nothing.” She lost her battle against her tears and they streamed down her face.
Her husband’s head nodded in agreement. “The police are baffled. They have no leads and no clues,” he said.
“Okay, but why me?”
“The Magus sent us.”
I tried to hold back the surprise from face, but failed miserably. The Magus was the sorcerer. Senor Bucks-a-plenty had to have serious juice to even get thirty seconds of his time, but at least it explained why me. The Magus likes those d-bag Chicago Empowereds even less than I do; he would throw some work my way.
I recovered and schooled my features into my professional face. “I see. I bet he explained my rates to you. You have no objections?” It may seem obvious that they didn’t because they were there, but it was still a valid question. You see, my rates are steep monetary wise, but it’s with the fine print that most people hesitate.
I decided to lay it out, just in case. “In addition to my fee, which will be substantial, each of you will owe me a favor. A favor to be redeemed at any time I choose. If I do not redeem the favor within your lifespan then the burden falls to your descendants. This will be bound by a blood oath. Do you understand?”
They nodded yes, but I knew they were thinking that they could loophole their way out. Sorry, but I’m not Rumpelstiltskin. I give you gold and you will pay up. On their heads be it.
“I’ll need a picture.” They handed over a recent photo of a girl roughly fourteen, still in her gangly awkward phase. A cute oval face topped by a curly mop of brown hair with brown eyes that seemed to hide something stared back at me. Her smile seemed forced, the metal of her braces and the multicolored rubberbands on them barely visible.
“What’s her name?”
Well, folks. That covers all of the important stuff I promised to tell you. I’ve got some work to do. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Until next time,