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The Night Shift
Elke stripped her table of the sheets and dropped them in the soiled basket. She wiped her brow with the back of her hand for a bit of rest, and twisted off the cap of a water bottle for a drink. Her arms and back were tired, and as she rubbed her own shoulders with weak hands. She wished she could make herself as refreshed as old Mrs. Pavlova, who practically hopped off the table and skipped out of the room. The old lady was kind enough, and pretty funny to boot, and she tipped well. Really well, Elke thought as she stuffed the money left behind into her bag, pulled out a change of clothes and hurried into her uniform. She finished tidying the space afterward and went out front to clock out. Her shift at the parlor was over.

It was evening outside. The tattoo shop next door was just opening up for the night, and she waved at the worker through the windows as she passed. He gave her a lopsided grin and a wave to come inside, but Elke tapped at her own belly and gave a little twirl in her scrubs. She was starving and needed to eat, and she had to get on.

She bought a wrap from a cart vendor on the street corner, and downed it as she walked. Only then she checked the time and skipped forward, hurrying. She hadn’t realized she’d been loitering, and was only barely going to make it.

The housekeepers business was just opening up for the night at 9 pm on the dot. She barely slipped through the back door in time.

With a loud whoosh, she clocked in and stowed her belongings in a locker. Her scrubs were already on, so no need to change again. Her hair was already tied back in double braids and pinned close to her scalp. She wore the braids long her first shift and was really grossed out by the blood she got her hair. The other girls laughed and told her to wear a hair-net next time, but Elke thought they were ugly and decided to wear them up high and tight. She wrapped a black scarf around her skull just to keep the splatter out, and stuck out her tongue at the girls the next night. When they asked for the link she used to order them from a site, she shared though. She wasn’t petty.

She left the locker room to go down the hall and check their assignments for the evening and get her gear. Every night was a different location. She never really knew what kind of thing the housekeepers would be called to clean. It took a good month of orientation to learn all the tools and chemicals, though. It wasn’t fun work. It was gross and hard, but the real fun was in the places they went and in the money she made. She had never seen so much in all her life as what was on her first paycheck. Sadly, most of that went to rent, but still.

She scrolled her finger through the screens until she came to her name. There was nothing yet, but jobs usually came in last minute. So she had a few minutes to kill, she figured. So she grabbed a pager, and went to the break room to find a snack. On the way there, though, she heard raised voices coming out of the manager’s office. So she stopped to listen.
[Image: Adr.kan_-scaled.jpg?strip=info&w=2000] [Image: Scion-1.jpg]
Adrian & Scion

“And what do you want me to do?” Adrian was the picture of patience. Hands folded at his waist, even if his fingers gripped one another tight in his own fists, he practically towered over the others present. There were only three of them: himself, his client and the business manager, but it was annoyingly crowded. All the space in the world couldn’t make room for the egos filling the office.

“Rectify the situation!” Declared Scion Marveet. His dark eyes were cauldrons of anger, but they didn’t phase Adrian.

“Your people did that, and you signed a contract describing in great detail the-“

“I know what the contract says,” he interrupted, “and I know the difference between intent and design. You are responsible. I demand recompense for the lost goods!” He slapped his hands on the desk. On the other side, the manager was lock-jawed.

Adrian was generally a patient man. He could blink soundlessly at any jackass who wanted to tell him off, but he knew he had the upper hand here. They both claimed that negligence of the opposite party was to blame, but it would be impossible to prove either way. Part of their contract stipulated that video recordings were not allowed while the work was ongoing. No evidence of either side, client or cleaner, would acknowledge the other. Yet somehow, this job went wrong and Scion lost a few million dollars worth of goods.

But Adrian knew something else. He stepped forward, eyes darkening, tone settling low in his gut. “I know that I am the only game in town. You want to dismiss us, fine, but you’ll be on your own afterward. Good luck with that.” He splayed his palms out on the desk, leaning over the older man, their eyes locked upon each others.

When Scion tilted his jaw and his lips pulled into a sneer, Adrian knew the man would just have to eat the loss. There was no other way. No other company in all of Moscow did what Adrian’s could do. He had no competitors. Theirs was a very niche market.

Scion flew out the door like a hurricane, barreling over anyone in his path. Adrian turned to the manager, jaw tight, and effeciently took over command of the computer system. He made a few edits then sent the revised contract to Scion’s account. “Call me if he bothers us again,” he ordered on his way out.
"Of all men's miseries the bitterest is this: to know so much and to have control over nothing."
+ Adrian +

After the first man rushed out of the office, Elke hopped out of the way. In fact, she hopped so far she ended up huddling in the threshold of the next door down. That was when Sunshine Popov joined her. Sunshine was of the disposition suggested by her name. Elke originally really liked the other girl, but the more they worked together, Elke decided she was somehow too peppy. Elke was a bubbly girl herself, but when cleaning up the kinds of messes they found themselves in sometimes, well, even Elke found her cheerfulness strange.

“What’d I miss?” Sunshine peered down the hall where the older man was stomping off.
“Argument of some kind in the manager’s office. Who was that?”
“I don’t know. He looks rich though.” There was a brightness lighting Sunshine’s eyes that Elke recognized when she looked at a delicious pastry.

They looked at each other quizzically before another person stalked out of the office. He was much younger than the first man, though he was dressed just as handsomely. When he glanced their way, Elke shivered.

“Who’s that?” she said quietly.
Sunshine’s eyes were round, twin suns.  ”That’s the guy who owns this whole place!”
“Really?” Elke blinked. She’d never seen anyone like that around there before. “He’s kinda.. scary,” she added, though she wasn't really sure why she was afraid.
When Adrian emerged, it was only habit that swiveled his head toward both lengths of the hall. He’d not expected anything of note other than to avoid slamming into someone on his way out, which was precisely why he was surprised to find himself paused upon glimpsing two employees whispering nearby. A frown settled upon his expression, and it could be assumed it was disappointment in discovering paid workers had little better to do with their time than eavesdrop and gossip, but that wasn’t it at all.

He had no reason to notice one of the girls in particular. In fact, to him, they seemed exactly alike. Yet something about her drew him, and he immediately catalogued memories of many dreams to see if he recognized her from one. No such explanation presented itself. Therefore, he concluded that she must have one of those faces, and he left.
"Of all men's miseries the bitterest is this: to know so much and to have control over nothing."
+ Adrian +


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