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"I will not give this assignment to just anyone."
Caroline Deteroit groaned inwardly. Dr. Alan Carruthers, loved to lord the fact that he was in charge over her. A short, squat, slightly balding man in his mid-forties, Carruthers believed that he held his employees’ very lives in his hands, and expected them to act accordingly.
"The request for a Reader came down from the highest level of the Baris family." He droned on. "I am hesitant to send someone who is ill-prepared for what they may encounter."
Caroline stifled her sigh by drumming her red-lacquered nails on the worn armchair. "Drop-Dead Red" was her current favorite polish, though she had been known to favor "Perfectly Purple" on occasion. So few jobs had come her way over the last two months she had started painting her nails daily in the office, feeling like a rip off of some 1940s movie secretary. All that was missing was for her to start cracking bubble gum. Her second coat of the day had just finished drying when she’d been summoned to the Big Giant Head’s office, which could be found on the fifth floor of the London Branch of the Foundation for Unseen Cooperation through Knowledge and Understanding.
The F.U.C.K.U. (an acronym that had to be pronounced letter by letter for reasons the staff found hilarious) was an organization run by a conglomeration of Witches, Vampires, and KeverÃ¨k. Generally speaking, they were a research lab that gathered and housed information about all things that went bump in the night.
Caroline watched as Carruthers surveyed her over the brown rims of his glasses, clearly waiting for the awesomeness of his words to hit her. She arranged her face into what she hoped passed for some kind of enraptured expression. The routine never varied when it came to him. First he had to let her know how lucky she was that a lowly flea like her was being given the chance to have assignments like these. Then she had to act extremely grateful for his consideration.
It was like some tedious, constantly hyped film that no one really liked but it was shown on television over and over again anyway because it was "acclaimed." Like Apocalypse Now. The Redux version.
"I love the smell of nail polish in the morning." She muttered under her breath in her best imitation of Robert Duvall.
"Ms. Deteroit, are you even listening to me?" Carruthers asked, his voice taking on an irritated edge. She straightened in her chair.
"Of course sir." She lied. He scowled, clearly not believing her.
"Perhaps I should send Samantha Cicero instead?"
I will not roll my eyes, she swore to herself. I will not. Caroline knew his threat was empty, as Sam was currently out of the country. Still, she played along. "Please sir, I truly want this job." She insisted. "I swear I’ll accomplish whatever task the Baris family wishes."
"I cannot afford failure in this." Carruthers pulled a small note from the folder on his desk and held it out to her. "Your record has been impeccable thus far, which is the only reason I trust someone of your age to handle the matter."
Her inward groan turned into an audible growl. His dull brown eyes snapped up at her, but she managed to keep her expression innocent.
Note to self: If you want the most rewarding job to come through the Reader Dept. in months, don’t piss off the boss by growling at him.
"Did you say something?" Carruthers prompted.
Her reply was immediate. "No, sir."
"Well, anyway, despite your young age, I feel you will do well with this." She went to take the piece of paper from him but he pulled back at the last second, his eyes locking with hers. "Don’t make me regret this."
"No, sir." She said, finally wrestling the page from his hand. Despite her young age? She was twenty nine years old, but to a crusty old barnacle like Carruthers, she guessed that meant she was practically an infant. As she turned and exited the office, she gave in to the urge and rolled her eyes, cursing herself that this was the only job she’d been able to find.
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