|Miss Inkypaws is helping|
As a treat for the new year, I thought I'd share a little from my current work in progress. A murder mystery, inspired by a twitter conversation.
“I warned you,” a loud man’s voice said into the dark room, “I will not be ignored any longer.”
“For God’s sake man, don’t be so melodramatic,” a second male voice said dismissively.
The sound of a match striking and a small flame flickered into life. A man, in his early sixties, seated behind a large and ornate desk looked up in the dim light. His eyes grew wide and in an annoyed, low voice he said, “Oh, for heaven's sake.”
* * *
Ernestine trudged up the steps from the subway counting under her breath. “twenty-eight.” She wasn’t sure what was hotter, the subway car, the outside air or her tiny studio apartment last night during the power outage. How she longed for the pacific northwest and her mother’s house. New York was taking some getting used to.
Her clothes hung like damp rags on her sweating frame and it was only eight am. The Monday morning crowd jostled her and urged her to keep walking. The offices of Capricorn Publishing were just two blocks away, but in this heat it felt like it might as well be two states away.
With a sigh of relief she entered the cool, air-conditioned lobby with its slick marble floor and dark wood paneling. She hurried to the lady’s room to try and rescue what she could of her hair and make-up.
“Look at you, not used to hot weather?” a friendly voice said as Ernestine entered the elegantly appointed bathroom.
“No, we don’t get this kind of heat and humidity back home, Ms. Wickstrom,” she said.
“Please, Ernie, call me Claudia. I’m the office manager, not the schoolmistress,” the older woman said, laughing. “Ms. Wickstrom … it always sounds like the name of the head mistress of some creepy girls’ school, don’t you think?” She laughed again.
“Now that you mention it …” Ernestine, Ernie to most, was not really reassured by that comment. She’d thought the office manager at her uncle’s publishing house looked forbidding and just a little too well put together. From her perfectly coiffed hair held in place with an obscene amount of hairspray, to her perfectly applied make-up and crisp white blouses. The slightly too tight pencil skirts and high heels completed an altogether unsettled picture for Ernie who’d only just left the land of fleece, sandals and Gore-Tex.
Not really by choice. She’d wanted to join the FBI and her college credentials were of interest to them, but joining the family publishing house was kind of a tradition. Her uncle’s only child, a son, had run off to Australia to be a school librarian - of all things - and a surfer. He’d gone as far away as he could from his father and the business which had been established in the late 1800's by a distant relation. It was stipulated in the bylaws that the company had to be run by a blood relation. With Joshua out of the picture that responsibility now rested squarely on Ernie’s shoulders.
Sure, she loved books, and she could spot an out-of-place comma as well as the next college educated person with a minor in English, but it wasn’t her passion. She would much rather analyze data and track down criminals.
“I’ll go set up the coffee maker,” Claudia said, smoothing her skirt while obviously sucking in her stomach, and giving herself one more appreciative look in the mirror. “You just take your time putting yourself together. And you might want to consider some waterproof mascara, it holds up better when you sweat.” Her voice held just a touch of saccharine in it which made Ernie feel judged. Looking at herself in the mirror she judged herself pretty harshly too. The heat was very unkind to her.
She splashed cold water on her face and realized that only made the make-up situation worse. “Fine, whatever,” she muttered at her reflection and using the coarse paper towels she proceeded to scrub off all her make-up. “Shit,” she said, when she stopped scrubbing. Now she was glowing red, which somehow made her freckles more prominent.
She rummaged around in her backpack for some powder and lip balm. Adding a touch of eyeliner and shook her head which did nothing to move her frizzy red curls. “Whatever, if I don’t want to be here anyway, why should I make an effort to look like I belong. I’ll never be able to trowel on as much goop as Ms. Wickstrom anyway,” she said, giving herself a critical look.