Office 5-11
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After lighting a cigarette and inhaling deeply Marw asked:

Hey Dowell, did I ever tell you that I had my own detective agency? Seriously, no? It was when I had just started my career and was much younger and more candid than I am now.

Perhaps calling it an agency is a bit presumptuous but I had an office and a secretary, like any self-respecting private investigator. It was a dimly lit and stuffy office with a desk, a typewriter, a telephone, a couple of chairs and a small sofa plus a filing cabinet. Although it wasn't in a great location it wasn't a bad deal, it was rented to me for cheap and it came already furnished. It wasn't high quality furniture, I could tell it came from closeouts and sales, but since I was just starting out I couldn't complain.

How did they rent to a cat? Easy, I saw an ad in the newspaper, I phoned and sent the check by mail to the owner, for one month plus the guarantee, after which they left the keys at the reception, I was confident that things would go well from then on.

At first no clients came in. Every so often I would hear footsteps approaching my door, but they always walked past me towards the other offices on the floor. I had an office with a shiny plaque on the door advertising my services but something was missing, and it was only after a few days that I realized what the problem was: I didn't have a secretary. How could my office function without an efficient assistant?

So I did what every self-respecting private investigator should do: put an ad in a newspaper.

We are looking for a responsible and committed woman to work as a secretary in a private investigation office. Interested persons can call to the phone number…

The first applicant to arrive was a short, rather plump lady in her 60s. She came into the office and as soon as she saw me she said that nowhere in the advertisement did it state that she had to take care of a pet. When I explained to her that I was not a pet and that I would in fact be her boss, she came out screaming in horror, calling out to a certain Lady of Lourdes.

The second applicant was a woman in her 40s, soberly dressed and quite serious. When I spoke to her she insulted me, or rather insulted whoever she thought was behind me, said that she was not going to lend herself to a joke from the Hidden Camera and that they should at least pay her cab fare. When I offered to do so she left slamming the door.

You haven't seen the Hidden Camera? Me neither, but I think it's a program where they play pranks on unwary people and videotape them, explaining at the end that they were part of a joke.

The third applicant was even more disrespectful. Hearing me speak she said "Oh, a puppet, how cool" and started groping me, looking for hidden strings or something and not finding them she commented that I should be an animated robot. By now I was already cranky, I hissed at her to please leave and she did so without stopping smiling or shaking her head.

No, she wasn't a good applicant, I couldn't work with someone who didn't take me seriously.

Several days passed without any new interested parties and I was already losing hope of finding a suitable secretary when Carolyn arrived. A beautiful woman with pale skin and long dark hair, about 25 or 30 years old, with Mediterranean or Celtic ancestry. Something happened to me at that moment, I was speechless, she saw me and just smiled and introduced herself. —Don't be mistaken Dowell, she was not a femme fatal— When I reacted and answered her she didn't fret or mock, she answered me naturally saying that it would be a pleasure to work with me.

Her presence immediately improved the atmosphere in the office. She arrived before me and always had a cup of freshly brewed coffee for her and a little saucer of warm milk for me. The office was clean and airy and she even brought in some plants to decorate. With her arrival work started to come in as well. At first it was small cases, lost animals and people, searching for lost valuables and following up on people, but work is work.

It was she who came up with the idea of being the visible face of our partnership, it was much easier for most clients to deal with a woman than a talking cat. At first I was offended by her suggestion but eventually I realized she was right.

As the days, weeks and months passed, we gradually prospered. Every morning we would meet first thing in the morning to share a cup of coffee and plan the day, and while she stayed on the phone and did administrative work, I would go to the streets to follow up on the case we were working on at the time. Every Friday we would say goodbye and wish each other a good weekend and every Monday we would resume that happy routine.

Do you want to know something, Dowell? I knew little about herpersonal life, from the beginning we had an unspoken agreement not to ask about our pasts, our business relationship worked and that was all that mattered.

It was a cold Wednesday morning when we were in our morning meeting and heard the sound of multiple footsteps approaching the office, breaking the usual quiet of the building. Carolyn turned pale and after locking the door, she forced me to hide inside the filing cabinet, telling me that no matter what I saw, I should't leave the place.

A few seconds later, the door was broken down and some guys in combat fatigues and ski masks came into the office. Carolyn began to sing sweetly in a language I was unfamiliar with and the decorative plants we had began to grow rapidly, pushing two of those guys with their branches and pinning them against a wall. She continued with her song and a large number of moths arrived from outside and enveloped our attackers. But that wasn't enough. One of the thugs managed to scatter the moths around him, get to where Carolyn was and hit her in the temple with the butt of his gun, knocking her unconscious. Then they handcuffed her and dragged her away.

I had to wait until nightfall to leave the office through the bathroom window, after which I left the city.

I never saw her again. Marw concluded as he stubbed out his cigarette in an ashtray, gazing blankly into his memories.

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