Continuing Chapter 35 this week on the Tale … another thread needing some poking and a little bit more …
Storm Clouds 205
Bill was in his office watching the clock as the red numbers ticked away the time until the day’s work was done. He hadn’t seen his son, Billy, for most of the day, and it wasn’t like Billy not to check in. Bill knew full well that Billy did more and worked longer than anyone else in his business; he had his finger on the pulse of the company and kept things running smoothly, even if he didn’t see just how vital he was.
Still, when Billy asked for permission to take the afternoon off, Bill didn’t hesitate, didn’t question it. If Billy wanted to do something, and it was important enough for him to take time off his duties, Bill wasn’t going to refuse him.
As the clock reached quitting time and he heard the office staff gathering up their things to leave, he started to worry. Billy hadn’t called; normally, he would. It wasn’t like him not to keep in touch. There was something going on, and Bill feared the worst.
He called out: “Tenshi! Come in here, will ya’?”
There was the sound of a filing cabinet closing, and then, in the doorway, there appeared a short, blond, Asian woman. She clutched a small stack of folders to her side and asked in a submissive tone: “Yes, Sir?”
“I do not know where your son William is. There have been no phone calls or messages from him, sir.”
Bill strummed his fingers over the top of his desk before pushing his chair back and snatching a briefcase that waited close by: “Not like him. Shoulda’ called or somethin’. Make sure ya’ leave the answering machine on in case he calls. I’m going home. I’ll check for messages.”
She nodded, then stood to the side as Bill left his office.
He added, just before he turned the corner and moved towards the exit: “An’ don’t ya’ stay late, either, Tenshi. Get home. That filing can wait ‘til tamarrow.”
“Yes, sir. Goodnight, sir.”
Tenshi didn’t leave. She spent the next hour carefully putting away the files she had. She had to wait, anyway.
They always made her wait.
He always made her wait.
As she closed another drawer, her thoughts spun around the situation she found herself in. If it wasn’t for the debt her family owed, she would never be doing what they asked her to do. Bill was an honourable man. So was his son. But that didn’t seem to matter to them.
Nothing she honoured mattered to them.
The shadow that blocked out the light from the office startled her and she turned to find … him … again. It was always him: a dishonourable man with dishonourable intent living a dishonourable life. The colour of his skin reminded her of the legends her family told of those taken by dark spirits to do their bidding.
Again, she wondered what could have tempted him to be … this.
“Have you news?”
“His son is missing; I do not know where. He left after the police came to see his father. He spoke with one of the detectives, a woman; I do not know what they spoke of.”
The man frowned and then produced a knife from beneath the robes he wore, the silver clashing against the white of his skin and the black of his robes: “Sloppy. You’re supposed to be watching the two of them.”
Her brown eyes narrowed: “I cannot watch them both all the time. I was unfortunate to encounter one of the detectives.”
The knife began to trace a pattern over his palm: “Are they suspicious of you?”
“No! They both left; nothing was said!”
“That had best be true for your own continued existence.”
She said nothing to this. The penalties for failure, she had heard, were as brutal as any nightmare she could imagine and more.
The knife stopped moving, and he looked at her with eyes so black she thought her life was being sucked into them, her breath catching in her throat: “The son is no longer your concern. I will deal with him.”
A coldness creeped up Tenshi’s spine as she asked: “What does that mean, exactly?”
The answer echoed the cold she felt as the black eyes looked clean through her: “His life is inconsequential. But he has value as a pawn in a larger scheme.”
She turned away from him, not wanting to see him any longer: “Please. Do not touch him. He is an innocent in this. Please.”
The smirk was awful, the words full of despair: “Who can stop me—you? You forget your place. We will have to remind you … soon.”
“I know my place. I serve without question.”
He waved the knife at her, the tip flashing in the light: “See that you do. You are still human, but there are suitable dark beings who would dine upon your life, soul, and mind.”
She shivered at the warning, knowing it was not an idle one: “What would you have me do?”
The knife vanished under the robes: “Continue the plan. Other pawns have been ordered to move tomorrow. Have the trap set.”
She did not hesitate: “Of course.” She even bowed to emphasis the point.
He turned away, dismissing her, but, before he vanished into the shadows of the office, he added: “And be sure to be suitably shocked when he is arrested for murder … and the son turns up in the river.”
The office turned quiet once more after he had left, and she was thankful for that. It always seemed like, when he left, any life where he had been was sucked away with him. She dropped into a chair and stared at the stack of folders still to be filed, still waiting to be put into their places.
She shook her head at the realization that she herself was just like one of the files. Put into her place, to be taken out from time to time to be examined and then, eventually, discarded. As she took a deep breath to calm herself, something in the office fell and startled her. Turning to look in that direction, she couldn’t see anything obvious, but, assuming that he had returned, she called out: “Did you forget something?”
The lack of an answer was more than a little concerning. The lights in the office were, for the most part, dimmed or turned out; the only spot of light was around the space where she had been working. A few short strides took her to where the light switches were, but, before she could flip the lights on … she heard a cat meow. Out of the shadows came a small, grey, calico kitten. She adored cats: her parents had several, but, since she left them and arrived in the city, she never had a pet. She knelt down and offered her hands to the kitten, calling out to it in a soft voice: “Come here, sweetheart. I won’t hurt you.”
The kitten crept out into the light and warily considered her. She understood this; she remembered an injured cat her parents had taken in, how it kept its distance from her, from all of them, until it was sure that they weren’t going to hurt it.
“There’s nothing to worry about. The bad man is gone. It’s just me. I promise.”
It took some time, but, eventually, the kitten came close to her before it paused and sniffed at her hands. Tenshi expected the cat to dart off, hiss, or something just from her being in contact with it. Instead, the kitten brushed itself against her hands before slipping underneath them and pushing against her stockings … and it began to purr.
Tenshi recalled that they had forbidden her to have a pet, especially a cat, but her mood was foul over what he had said. She touched the kitten’s back, its tail twining around her fingers as the kitten began to pace back and forth against her. Petting it gently, her thoughts went back over what he had said to her.
The kitten squirmed around a bit and then turned to look at her. Tenshi was struck by just how blue the kitten’s eyes were. She had never seen such blue eyes on a cat, any cat, before. If she didn’t know better, she would think there was intelligence behind those eyes. Gathering the kitten onto her lap, she began to scratch the kitten’s head and started talking to it. She couldn’t tell anyone about all of the things that were happening around her, but she could tell this simple creature. After all, it was a cat, and cats couldn’t tell any secrets. “You know, it’s been a really bad day. It all started when …”
As Tenshi spoke, the kitten looked off into the shadows as her head was being scratched, shaking it on occasion. Tenshi never noticed the flash of purple that appeared in the shadows for an instant, before vanishing once more.
She had a lot to talk about, and the kitten wasn’t planning on going anywhere. Ever.