Ned poked his head into Inspector Holltip's office, "The Bureau just sent over an investigation."
From behind the door, he brandished a slim, blue folder sealed shut with a piece of red tape.
"I'll read it after lunch. Put it on that chair," the inspector replied without looking up. Lazily reclined, he was examining his hands and picking small flakes of glue from between his fingers.
Ned stood uncertainly in the doorway, there were a few chairs to choose from, but none of them nearby. The office was far too large for an office, especially for an office inhabited by Morven Holltip. It was entirely empty except for the desk in the middle, four chairs along the left wall, and an expanse of coarse rug.
"Sir, this seems very important. It's sealed and classified."
"Of course it's important. Just set it down somewhere. I'll schedule a meeting about it later," answered Morven, still absorbed with his hands.
"Yes sir. Of course, sir."
Ned stepped toward the line of chairs, but then stopped. It was a long walk to the far wall and that rug had a terrible habit of shedding on anything it touched. Last time Ned visited the office, his pant legs became so covered with yellow fibers that he used up three lint rollers cleaning them off. Delicately, Ned placed the folder by the door and left.
It was a few minutes before Morven finished cleaning his hands. He hummed to himself as he examined them, not a tune but a single note, a sort of quiet whine. It was something he'd started doing in kindergarten but never noticed. After he was satisfied, Morven clapped and stood up. A soft current of air brushed his face, but there wasn't a window in the office. Such an oddity would have tickled any normal inspector's investigative urges, but Morven was too much of an oddity himself to give it much attention. Morven preferred going to restaurants alone because he liked to savor the menu for as long as possible and he always carried a little plastic bag of peanuts in his pocket. Morven moved to retrieve the folder but changed his mind and instead opened the top drawer of his desk to reassure himself that his lunch was still inside. He had half an hour until his break.
Morven sat back down and looked across the room at the folder. The little piece of tape reflected light into his eyes. It shone with such hostility that Morven felt compelled to make a rude gesture at it, but the folder ignored him. Morven sighed and took a bottle of glue from his desk. With a fine brush, he applied a line of the glue to each finger. Then, after rubbing his hands together to smear the glue into a glistening film, Morven raised his hands up, into that strange breeze, to dry.
He was married once, but his wife had disappeared. He had had four children, but they had all vanished as well. Not all at the same time, but one after another over the course of a couple months. The misplacement of his family disturbed Morven. Of course he had called the police, they had put Inspector Krem on the case, but nothing came of it. Other people's people didn't seem to get lost so easily, or maybe they did and Morven just wasn't aware of it. After a few lonely weeks, Morven came to the conclusion that he could not find people just as efficiently as Inspector Krem didn't find people and so he joined the police and did very well.
When they had dried, Morven lowered his hands and began to peel the glue away from his skin. It came off in large patches at first, but around the ridges and crannies, the glue was more persistent and Morven had to inspect them very carefully. Eventually it was noon and time for lunch.
Chapter Two →