Inspired by S01E13 Blood Ties, in which Mason's assistant is mentioned. It struck me that we never actually see this person, so I started to wonder what they would be like.

If he was prompted to describe his assistant, Mason Eckhart would use words such as discreet and efficient. If forced to give a physical description, he would find himself struggling. Female, perhaps he would say. Of some age.

She took care of everything with the minimum of fuss. A short email, and it would be done. They communicated almost entirely by email.

It had been a relief to find someone such as her. For his own sanity he had to fire the overbearing woman who served his predecessor.

Mason was very surprised when he noticed things slipping. His assistant did not always reply to his emails. That was ordinary. She agreed with him about the flagrant triviality of platitudes and niceties. She would inform him only if something could not be done.

So Mason was perplexed to discover that multiple reports had not been run, and that none of yesterday's arrangements had been made.

He hesitated before leaving his office to go to her door. There was only one time that he could recall visiting her office previously. She had resolved a rather convoluted and messy situation for him, and he went to thank her in person. The look of discomfort on her face when he did made him wish he hadn't. And he understood that he wasn't to ever do that again. For her, doing an exceptional job was the default. Any suggestion that she might not was a terrible insult.

There was no answer to his knock. He was not the sort of person to knock a second time, so he entered.

His assistant was slumped over her desk, head down on the keyboard. Mason stood for a few moments to check, but it was unnecessary. He knew what a dead body looked like.

At first Mason was unsure what to do. On the occasions when there was an unexpected dead body in his vicinity, he would email his assistant and shortly it would disappear.

To his surprise he was invited to the funeral. To his further surprise he found himself in attendance.

He waited in the car until the other mourners entered the church. And waited a while longer, as surely there must be more. A full security detail was sent with him. Any time Mason left the facility it was considered a high risk event.

Slipping quietly into the church and taking a seat on the back row, Mason counted the others. Including him and his security detail, they totalled less than ten. Some might think that sad. But in his opinion, sadder was the death of the person who left many behind.

At the graveside, the priest's words were unremarkable save for their familiar rhythm. The coffin was lowered. Earth was thrown. But not by Mason.

It was time to walk away, but a man approached him. Nondescript, old, might accompany his profile. He held out a muddy hand to Mason. "Mr Eckhart," he said, his red eyes fixed on the ground. It wasn't a question. He knew who he was, despite never having met him before.

Hand shaking was never mandatory, Mason reminded himself. Never mandatory, he repeated as he reluctantly submitted to a brief handshake.

"Thank you. My wife thought very highly of you. You were no trouble to her. She hopes she was no trouble to you."

"Not at all. My condolences."

During the drive back to Genomex, Mason had only one thing on his mind. And when he returned to his desk the same thoughts lingered.

How was he supposed to replace someone like that?

He opened a new email and addressed it to his assistant.

How do I fill your vacancy? he typed.

It was ridiculous, of course. But he tried to imagine her reply. There would be none, of course. The next thing he would hear about it would be time scheduled in his diary to meet with several impeccably suited candidates.

Now he was on his own.