“Plaque’s up,” I said as I shut the door into the office behind me.
“Uh huh,” Kath said distractedly. She was hunched over at her computer, very absorbed in whatever was going on on the screen. “Cool.”
“How does it look?” Sorayah’s voice asked. I squinted, and realised that she was hovering over Kath’s shoulder, almost invisible in the glare from the window. In the two weeks since our… encounter with the Raggedy Man, she’d slowly begun to return to visibility. She wasn’t yet as solid as she’d been when we’d met, still disappearing under bright light or flickering out when she got stressed or worried, but it was a significant improvement from no body at all. Other than that, she looked exactly the same, still wearing her bloodstained shirt and suit, bags under her eyes as dark as ever.
“It’s nice,” I said dropping into my chair. “Classy. Although, apparently not everyone agrees.”
“Uh huh, cool.” Sorayah floated a little closer to the screen. “No, no, further to the left.”
“Hm?” She glanced up at me. “Oh, sorry, no, I was talking to Kath. What were you saying?”
I raised an eyebrow. “Just that I had a bit of an… encounter while-”
“Booyah!” Kath yelled, clicking rapidly. Sorayah gave a little cheer.
“…what are you two doing?” I asked. “Gaming?”
“No,” Kath said, completely po-faced.
“Yes,” Sorayah said at the exact same time. “What?” she protested as Kath shot her a glare. “It’s not like she’s your mum! Is she gonna take away your computer privileges?”
“I’m bored,” Kath said defensively. “Nobody’s cheating on each other or getting murdered these days. They’re all too busy loving life or some shit.”
“What were you saying, June?” Sorayah asked politely.
I briefly relayed my run-in with Marçelas to them.
“What a binch,” Kath noted with a frown, spinning her chair around in circles
“She, uh, does sound quite unpleasant,” Sorayah agreed.
“Oh,” I said with a grim smile, “you haven’t even heard the best part.” I flicked the business card at Kath’s face, but she caught it without flinching.
“‘Thaumaturgic Security’,” she scoffed. “Ooh, look at me, I’m so- holy shit!” She fell out of her chair.
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“You okay?” Sorayah asked her, hovering nervously.
“Fine,” Kath grumbled, leveraging herself upright. “Ow. How does she afford that?”
“Well, presumably, she’s very good at her job.”
Silently, she looked around at our office. As if on cue, one of the ceiling panels gave an alarming creak, letting loose a cloud of dust to slowly drift down onto my desk.
“Not a word,” I said, pointing at her. “Not one.”
“Is it really that impressive?” Sorayah asked.
“Again,” I waved a hand around, “I can only afford this, and I share with her. A wardlayer in a highrise is like an electrician or a plumber in one.”
“Well,” she pointed out, “it doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s ridiculously good, does it? She could have inherited wealth, or… won the lottery, or something?”
“…huh!” She did have a point. I’d focused on the worst possible explanation, without considering others, which was so completely out of character for me.
“Maybe she married a widower and killed him to inherit his money,” Kath suggested.
“Ooh, or maybe she’s a vampire who’s been accumulating wealth for centuries!” Sorayah was getting into it now, flapping her hands excitedly. “Moving around the earth to avoid detection, setting up offshore accounts and false identities! Never getting too attached, because she knows that eventually she’ll have to move on…”
“Sorry, June,” Kath said dryly, “but only the world’s most boring vampire would be a wardlayer.”
“No, yeah, I’ll cop that.”
“Important question, though,” she continued, a sly grin spreading across her face. “She hot?”
I groaned, making a face. “Disgustingly. It was like she stepped out of a magazine or something.”
I swept the dust off my desk with the back of my hand, and started picking through the papers it had gotten on. All very boring business stuff; I could feel my eyelids starting to droop just skimming them.
“Eh, screw this,” I decided, dropping the papers. “Kath, scooch over. I want a go.”
“Um, actually?” I glanced up to see Sorayah nervously wringing her hands. “Could I… talk to you about something? Both of you, that is.”
“Uh, yeah,” I replied, confused. “Shoot.”
“Okay, so. There’s a funeral next Friday,” she said, speaking slowly as if choosing each word with care. “I… I’d like to attend, and I’d appreciate it if you two would too.”
“Oh!” Whatever I’d been expecting, it wasn’t that. “Um, sure, yeah, of course.”
“Yeah, count me in,” Kath added. “Is your family coming in, or…?”
She blinked. “No… why would my family be coming to- Oh!” She shook her head rapidly. “No, no, sorry, it’s not for me. It’s for Gregor Mantzoukas.”
Kath and I exchanged a glance. “…who?”
“The, uh,” she glanced away. “The guy who… you know…” She tapped her stomach.
“Ohhh…” Realisation struck like a lightning bolt. “Oh! Oh, wow, okay. Geez.”Really should’ve known that, June. In my defense, I’d just been glad to be done with the whole affair; I hadn’t exactly been in the mood to go back and fill in the gaps in my knowledge.
“You’re going to the funeral of the guy who killed you?!” Kath demanded, shooting out of her chair. She nearly smacked her face into the wall before getting her balance, and immediately spun on Sorayah. “Ray-ray. Raya. Rah-rah ooh-la-la.”
“I think you think you’re being brave and shit, and morally forkitudinous-”
“Not a word,” I interjected.
“-or whatever, but really it’s just gonna end up being sad and painful and sucky?”
“No,” Sorayah said slowly, “I know. But… it’s not like it was his fault. He was just as much a victim as I was. Am. More, even, because he didn’t even get to stick around like I did. I don’t know, I just feel like I owe it to him somehow.”
I saw Kath opening her mouth, and I waved her down. “Sorayah,” I said carefully, “you don’t owe anyone anything. But.” I took a deep breath. “If you really want to do this, we’ll come with.” She didn’t meet my eyes, but a smile crept across her face. “Besides,” I added, trying to lighten things a little, “it’s not like either of us is busy.”
So of course , a second later there was a knock on the door.