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A New Case
The office was dark through the glass paneled walls as Ellie walked down the corridor towards the door. She glanced at her wrist watch. Quarter past eight, hmm, he's late.

Barry, her secretary, a sweet older man of fifty-two, who lived across town in Ealing, usually arrived around eight. She frowned to herself as she balanced her bag and a paper cup of coffee in one hand, and wiggled her keys out of her pocket with the other, and unlocked the front door. She sometimes wondered why he bothered to make the arduous commute across the city every morning, but the old guy never complained of the decrepit tube lines, and was usually on time. Well, almost always. Ellie knew people his age had a hard time finding work, and his story about the loss of his wife six months before, and the desire to do something with his newly found time had struck a deep chord within her, so had happily offered him the position. Their arrangement was working out so far; he was organised where she was not, and that was exactly what she needed to make sure her business didn't fall on its head before it had even taken off.

She glanced at the freshly painted sign on the glass panel in front of her face, as she pushed the office door open. A swell of something akin to pride and regret rose in her, all mixed up in a bitter swirl.


Looks almost too professional,
she thought with a smirk, as she walked into the office space that made up both Barry’s reception desk and a semi-informal waiting area for her clients. She flipped the lights on, passing a quick eye over the room. Everything was as it was when she left it the night before. Barry’s neat and orderly desk covered in plants and succulents of a dozen varieties, the two brown leather couches, or sofas as Barry called them, the water cooler, chrome espresso coffee maker - good coffee was a luxury she couldn’t do without - the tall ferns that stood in each corner, the floor fan positioned in front of the small grimy window, to blow gusts of air around the room in the extreme summer heat that swamped London for months at a time.

Satisfied, she walked through the waiting room to the door of her personal office, twisting the doorknob and gently kicking the door open with a booted foot. She hit the light switch, and again glanced around, making sure nothing was amiss, then hung her bag on a hook by the door. She drained her coffee, and threw the cup in the trash bin next to her desk, then pulled her jacket off, draping it on the back of her chair, and unclipped her gun holster, placing it on her desk.

She walked back out into the waiting room, humming tunelessly to herself, and started to make herself and Barry some fresh coffee. Suddenly a loud bang came from the door, and she started in surprise, simultaneously turning and reaching for her gun. Which of course is on my fucking desk, nice one El
. She snorted in amusement though as she saw Barry, struggling to open the office door with something that looked like a new and rather large potted plant in his hands. She walked over quickly and yanked the door open, raising a questioning eyebrow at him.

“Really, Barry?”
she asked with feigned mockery, in her still strong New York drawl. “More greenery? Damn, it’s gonna be a jungle in here soon.”

Barry looked sheepishly at her though the leaves of the plant held in front of his face. “Sorry I’m late Miss. Fowles. This one is a beauty,”
he said in his clipped Londoner accent, as he held it towards her. “Don’t you agree? I thought she would look splendid on your bookcase.”

She grinned, and shook her head. “Fine, fine, you just go ahead and put it wherever you want. And Barry?”

He stopped enroute to her office, and turned to look at her.

“It’s Ellanor, or Ellie. Please, for the love of the gods, stop calling me by my surname. Its just plain weird.”

He nodded in acquiescence, and she turned back to the coffee maker. Be damned if he is going to listen to me, I have told him a thousand times already.

A little while later, a fresh steaming latte on her desk, laptop open in front of her, Ellie got to work. She had just landed a new case, and was reading through the notes she had taken when she had met with the client, the son of an elderly socialite who lived in an estate in Sussex, and apparently a citizen the Dominance VII Custody, or the shitty and corrupt Met Police, didn’t seem to give a fuck about. Or maybe that they thought she was a crazy old coot, and had chosen to ignore her and her son’s repeated requests for help. Ellie didn’t mind that the Custody and the Met were pretty slack with this sort of thing, to be fair, because it meant all the more work for her.

The son of this woman had shown up at her office two weeks before, informing Ellie that his mother was extremely upset and would be willing to pay her a significant fee if she could solve the case. Along with a very handsome advance, and a promise to double it with the successful capture of the perp. She had whistled to herself internally as she watched him transfer the funds directly into her work account on her laptop, and had pretty much decided to take the job then and there, without even hearing the details of the case.

Perpetrator. Or perpetrators, she supposed, as she read over her notes. The case was all kinds of interesting, but the money made it more so. The poor woman’s precious and expensive horses and breeding dogs were being brutally slaughtered, and her son was at a complete loss to explain it. Probably a gang of local kids, getting wasted and fucking stuff up for kicks.

She gave up reading, and sat back, taking a sip of coffee. Anyway, whatever the case, this advance is a big thing
, she thought. She was finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with the work load; cases were coming in thick and fast. To be expected of a city as heavily populated as London, where the Custody gave little care about the lower poor folk trying to live their lives, and the Metropolitan police were a shadow of their former selves. She had told Barry to say yes to pretty much any job that came across his desk, but had approached a cross-roads. She had a choice - start turning down the jobs, or hire an assistant. She hated to say no to people that needed her help, so when this particularly well paying job fell into her lap, the latter seemed like an excellent choice.

Barry had placed an ad in the appropriate enforcement circles, and in the local press, and on notice boards near Met offices the week before. Today was interview day. Of the fifteen that had applied, only two candidates had passed her scrupulous requirements. The first, a guy in his thirties from Birmingham, who had worked as an undercover officer infiltrating some extreme socialist party, and the second was an ex-cop from the Met. The first was her preferred choice; older, more experienced, no doubt good in a tricky situation. The second, a kid really, she had chosen because of his London roots, and of course his experience with policing.

She glanced up from looking at her coffee as she heard the phone ring in Barry’s office, and listened to the man’s english lilt as he answered.

“Hello, you have reached Fowles Private Detective Agency, how may I help you today?...Ah, yes, and how are you?...Oh, oh dear, that is a shame….yes, yes I will inform Miss. Fowles right away...please, yes, you do, anytime will be fine..very well, good bye.”

She sighed as she heard him walk towards her door, and knock gently. “Miss. Fowles? That was one of the interviewees. He won’t be able to make it today, says his mother has taken ill. He was very apologetic, and said he would call to re-arrange the interview.”

Esme tisked. “Goddamit. I bet it was the Birmingham guy, wasn’t it?”
He nodded softly, mouth twisted in regret.

she said loudly, then instantly regretted it. “Sorry, sorry, language. Ok, well, unless this Knight kid is a genius or something, or really really amazing, we can get the other guy down as soon as he can make it. Thanks, Barry.”

She glanced at her watch after the man had turned back to his desk. The kid's due in what, thirty minutes? Yep, just enough time to catch up on the news and finish my coffee. Sweet.

Edited by Ellie Fowles, Sep 8 2015, 11:26 PM.
Overcast. Of course it was overcast. When was it not cloudy in London these days. Even when the stifling hot summers came in, the sky was still usually grey, which just made it humid as well as hot. Alex was fairly certain that some ancient being had cursed London to give it terrible, but fairly warm weather.

Or he was being silly, and it was just where Britain was in the world. Gulf Stream current makes us warmer than other regions on our latitude.
He gave a small snort. Secondary school geography was useful for something, at least.

Alex gave a heavy yawn as he paced through the early morning London streets, pulling his long winter coat further around him. It had been far too long since he had been made to get out of bed this early; his last job had been working security for a local nightclub, one he'd quit pretty much instantly. Like all the shitty jobs he had been picking up since he had resigned from the Met. None of them... They didn't push him enough. it was arrogant, yes, but Alex was far above being a bouncer or security guard. He'd studied at Oxford for fucks sake; not that anyone cared of course, because he hadn't been able to collect his shiny piece of paper. This new job looked promising though. An American detective with quite a lot of experience. Alex was nervous about going into this sort of work again, the dreadful images of that damned warehouse flashing in front of him again. He stopped, leaning against the nearby wall, trying to take deep breaths as one of his small panic attacks hit. Eventually recovering, he continued on, head down, ignoring the inquisitive looks of passerby's.

Alex looked at the pasty in his hand, taking another absent bite from it. Thank God for Greggs.
Wasn't the best quality stuff, but it tasted nice, and was cheap, and that was all Alex really needed. It wasn't long before he was making his way into the more commercial area of London. He fished the small piece of paper he had with the address, and headed off down the street he needed to.

It wasn't long before Alex found the office block, and he moved through the entrance door, dodging other tired commuters heading to their daily grind. Consulting the little scrap of paper again, he ignored the elevator with the rather large queue, taking the stairs.

He found the office he wanted, and stared pensively at the large letters on the glass.


Opening the door, he peered into a plant covered room, with an elderly bespectacled man reading a newspaper at the desk. Alex coughed slightly, getting him to look up.

"Um, Morning."
Alex greeted him in his soft voice. "This Detective Fowler's office?"
The Scroll was filled with commentary and opinion pieces about this Andlain guy. Seemed he was some madman anarchist causing havoc for the Custody in Moscow. Rumors of weird weather too. Ellie was relieved to be honest, that London was almost considered a back water by the Ascendancy. Plus this kid was keeping the Custody Police force's eyes focused far away from here. Which means all the more work for my agency.

Ellie looked up from her laptop as she heard the front door open and close, and a man's voice say her name. She glanced at her watch. Well, if that's him, he is punctual enough

She stood up, closed her laptop and walked to her office door.

"It's Fowles, but I think you are in the right place, young man, how can I help you?"
she heard Barry ask in his dulcet lilt.

A man, wearing a long coat, hands in pockets, was stood in front of Barry's desk. A mop of brown hair obscured his most of his face, but she still recognised him from the photo attached his Met employment file she had requested from a contact.

"Thanks Barry, I got this. Alex, right? Alexander Knight?"
she said, leaning on the door frame of her office.

She stepped forward, and held out her hand. "Not a real detective anymore, but nice to meet you. I am Fowles, Ellanor Fowles. Come on through to my office. Do you want a coffee?"

Edited by Ellie Fowles, Sep 14 2015, 10:31 PM.
Alexander looked up, inspecting her momentarily. Fowles was what Alex had judged her to be. Tall, obviously strong, both physically, and with a quick look at her eyes, he judged mentally.

"Yes, I'm Alexander. A pleasure to meet you."
Alex shrugged off his long coat, and hung it on a nearby coat-rack, revealing his grey, well fitted suit underneath. He gave Ellanor's hand a quick shake before following into her office.

The first crisis of the interview came to ahead. He didn't especially like coffee but he couldn't very well refuse a drink, or do something silly like ask for tea. Just pile it up with milk an sugar, you'll be good. "Yes, please, I'll take a coffee."

He stayed standing, not wanting to sit until she did, and clasped his hands behind his back, and tried to think of an appropriate conversation topic. "Did you get my CV and everything? I can explain the whole attended University but don't have a degree or anything."
He gave an awkward cough, opened his mouth to say something else, but lapsed into silence instead, watching her make the coffee.
Huh. Sharp dresser. Good handshake. Not too bad so far, kid,
Ellie thought.

She brought two cups of coffee over and placed one in front of him, then walked around her desk and sat down. "Milk, but out of sugar though, sorry."

She took a sip of from her own mug, then put it down and sat forward, elbows on her desk. "Let's keep this informal, yeah? Your CV looked fine, Alexander,"
she said with a smile, hoping to put him at ease a little.

"You wouldn't be here otherwise. You were one of only a few I invited for an interview."
Best keep him on his toes, he doesn't need to know the other guy bailed.

"Let me give you an idea of the job. I need an assistant to help me carry out field work, surveillance, write up my field notes, build case files, interview new clients, that kind of thing. So I need to ask you some questions to make sure you are qualified to do those tasks."

He seemed to be paying attention, so she continued. "First off, do you have a car? Second, do you have a gun, and any of your own surveillance equipment? Next, can you give me a run down of your experience at the Met, the things you enjoyed the most on the job, that kind of thing?"

Edited by Ellie Fowles, Sep 14 2015, 10:40 PM.
Alex contemplated the coffee, and took a small sip, blanching slightly at the bitterness of it, and realising he really didn't like coffee. I can't just leave it now, though. He doggedly drank the coffee slowly, stopping himself from shuddering when the bitter liquid hit the back of his throat.

"Right, well, that's good then."
He gave an awkward smile, and folded his hands on his lap. The informality was a bit jarring, he was expecting a grilling about any gaps in his CV. Instead it was relaxed, and weird. Alex shifted uncomfortably.

"No, I don't have a car, no point as I don't really leave London. I have a gun, a Colt M1911, Series 20, newest model. Experience?"
He sat back, contemplating that carefully. "Served about three years as a detective, mainly working on taking down the increasing gangs in London. Mostly homicide and vice stuff, they'd merged us into a special branch as opposed to having the two departments constantly be on each others toes. I'm good at crime scene investigation, got a sharp eye for detail."
He rubbed his neck awkwardly, looking down. His voice went quieter. "I was also commended a few times on my interrogation skill."
Ellie observed Alexander as he spoke. He sat straight backed in his chair, and moved restlessly, shifting in his seat and fiddling his hands. Nervous, naturally. He didn't like the coffee either, though he pretended he did. Fucking Brits, with their terror of impropriety, she thought with amusement.

"Interrogation, eh? Well, I haven't had much need for that yet, not with the cases I've been pulling. Covert surveillance work, mainly, domestic cases, fraud, gang stuff, things like that. But with a new assistant I will be free to broaden the agency's portfolio. Murder, robbery, big time cases, stuff that wasn't deemed interesting by the Custody or Met."

She flipped open her laptop, and pulled up his Met employee record, scanning over it quickly. "Tell me about why you left the Met. Your file says there was an incident in a warehouse, before you quit. I know it might be hard for you to talk about."
She knew his partner had died in the event, and felt shitty asking him, but she needed to see how he was dealing with it. An emotionally unstable person could be a liability in the field.

Edited by Ellie Fowles, Sep 15 2015, 09:33 PM.
Alex nodded as she listed likely jobs they'd take, his half drank coffee largely ignored now as it began to go cold. After a few nods, the question he was dreading came. Alex felt his breath go shallower, and he gripped the edge of the table, forcing the panic down. Taking a deep breath, he looked Ellie in the eyes.

"M-my partner, died."
His voice was all over the place, but he brought it back under control. "We got some bad info, and we walked into a trap. About twelve of them? Gang members. We killed a couple before he got shot. I was about to die, and I triggered off an explosion in the gas main. Killed all ten of them, but I survived."

I didn't deserve too.
Ellie could see the pain in his eyes, before he bent his head to look searchingly at his hands, to look anywhere but at her it seemed.

"I'm sorry for your loss, Alexander,"
Ellie replied, her voice tinged with her own pain. Jamie had been her partner for a while, and so much more, and his death still felt raw at times.

"It is never easy losing someone close on the job. I appreciate your honesty,"
as far as I can see the truth in your words, anyway, she continued in her thoughts. His version of events matched that of his file perfectly.

"So, to summarize, you left the Met after the warehouse, for personal reasons, I guess. And you have worked as a bouncer and a few other jobs here and there. No car, but we can deal with that. I picked up an old van a few weeks back, she is a bit beat up but does the trick. Tinted windows and that, got a little workspace for my surveillance equipment. Anyway,"
she said as she picked up her coffee mug and took a sip, watching him over the rim, "over to you - got any questions for me? Shoot."

Edited by Ellie Fowles, Sep 23 2015, 02:23 PM.
Alexander took some deep breaths, his hands stopping their slight shaking. He zoned in on the slight pain in her own voice, and that helped, a lot. Ellie had obviously experienced something similar. She wasn't going to just pity him like everyone else, treat him like he was broken.

"Thank you. Um, means a lot."
Alex murmured, subsided into an awkward silence. Clearing his throat, he tried to smile, pushing it behind him. "Questions... Have you got any understanding with the Met? I know they always have a couple of cases they never get around to, and it's getting worse, apparently. Other than that?"
Alex just shrugged. "Nah, you've been pretty thorough, I think. I guess it'll be seeing how it turns out, might have questions in the future."

He stood, and leant over the desk, holding his hand out. "It's been a pleasure, Miss Fowles. My thanks for considering me."

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