Q is for Quick
When he still lives with Mom – and she still worries a lot more – he says things like, “Melinda just wants me to do some filing. It’ll be quick.” Of course, for most of that year they don’t have Mary, so it’s occasionally true. Mostly it’s not. (Melinda tries to keep him away from the boring stuff. He appreciates that.)
One thing’s always true, though: it’s never quick. There’s always some demon, or something he’s left behind, or a half-hour where he has to grab the candles and prepare some kind of ritual.
This is his life, he supposes, and it’s pretty good – but that doesn’t negate the way Mom’s eyes are more and more worried every time he leaves, or the morning he comes downstairs to find her staring in horror at the bloodstained shirt he forgot to leave at the office.
He knows, looking at her wide, tear-filled eyes in the moment before she becomes aware he’s there, that he’s moving out. Quickly.
R is for Revolver
“The gun!” she yells at List, and for a moment she isn’t Melinda – calm, composed, English Melinda – but Aerith, terrified and remembering why she shouldn’t always work alone. Her voice is too high, too afraid. The demon has her pinned to the wall, has caught her wrist and is gripping it tightly. (A moment of stupidity, complacency. She was a fool.) She is beside it, reaching out with her free hand. She tries to find the words for the chant, the call on the tip of her tongue, but they won’t come…
Three shots ring out perfect and clear, cutting through the commotion. The demon stutters in its movements, falls, and Melinda pulls her wrists from its limp grip. She glances at List, but he’s standing stock-still, empty-handed. Her eyes fall to Mary.
The secretary is still holding the gun, finger away from the trigger. The only thing she’s aiming at is the floor. She strides across the room, offering Melinda her free hand. When Melinda accepts it, climbing gracelessly to her feet – the soles of her boots scrape the floor in their search for purchase, the friction against the polished wood causing a high-pitched squeak that draws a wince from List – Mary gives her a guileless smile and holding out the weapon. “Thought you might be needing this back.”
Melinda nods, gently taking it. “Thank you. If I might ask – ”
“Da. We weren’t exactly in the best neighbourhood.” Mary gives a small, “aw, shucks” half-grin, as if taking down a demon with three well-placed shots is the most natural thing in the world.
“I… I see,” Melinda replies, a touch uncertainly. “We’ll just have to hope that that comes in handy.” She brushes herself off, beginning to walk away.
“That was pretty impressive,” List tells Mary, a few feet away.
Mary shrugs, following Melinda out of the room on high-heeled feet. “A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.”
S is for Steven
Steven J. Barber, veteran, New Yorker and fool extraordinaire, can’t help hanging round Miss Harrigan – no, Melinda; she said to call her Melinda – and her odd little company. Maybe it’s the well-lit, coffee-scented office that’s always just a little too cold in winter. Maybe it’s the mystery in the lady detective’s eyes; he recognises it too well from looking in mirrors, and wonders what might have happened to put it there.
Or maybe… maybe it’s Mary. It could be. The dame who always has a smile for him, and the only woman in the place who actually dresses like one. If he’s honest – yeah, it’s Mary.
So he sits at the front desk listening to how her day’s been (wondering how she manages not to get even a little lipstick on her teeth, ever), with a cup of the boy’s coffee or a glass of Miss… Melinda’s third-best scotch. If he occasionally gets dragged out on their crazy little jaunts… Well. It’s not like he has much better to do.
T is for Table
“We need to get one,” List announces decisively, striding into the main office.
At her desk in the next room, Melinda looks up from her paperwork. “Pardon?”
“I eat at Mary’s desk. I drink my morning coffee at Mary’s desk. I try and read a newspaper while she’s painting her nails… at her desk. We need a table.”
“It isn’t as if I expected cohabitants when I took this place,” she replies, her tone snippier than she intended, and instantly regrets it – but she realises with a shock that it’s true.