A/N: Sorry it takes me so long to update, I can't seem to find the time to write nowadays. I hate that feeling so I'm going to make a concerted effort to update all my stories over the coming months. Meanwhile thanks for sticking with me!
Chapter 2- 'The Art Of Seduction Is Not A History Lesson…'
I knew there was something different about her, I knew from the moment she walked into my office, all high heels and expensive perfume. The way she sat herself down in the chair opposite me all curves and grace, by the time she had lit her cigarette and blew the first ring of smoke over towards me I knew this was going to be interesting.
After a while in this job you get used to reading people, and if you're any sort of investigator you get pretty good at it too. It's to her credit then that I can't read her at all, you see usually the people who walk into my office are as nervous as hell. If they ain't finding someone, they're being found, they're jealous wives suspecting their husbands of doing the dirty, half-crazy guys suspecting their wives of doing the same. And if they ain't looking to find something, they're looking for something else to get lost, incriminating photos, hot love letters and sometimes even the odd lover they need paid and persuaded to get out of the picture.
The one thing they all more often than not have in common is that they shake, some of them so much so you wonder if offering them a drink would be a good idea, especially if it looks like the poor saps gonna get more on them than down their neck. Others only let you see the slightest quiver, wholly unintentionally of course, when they're signing over the check or handing over a picture for identification, when they're talking, it's the slightest tremor but its there all the same. And it's an emotion, anger, fear, hate or rage, something, but it's an emotion and it's valid, and it's more than good enough for me, it shows they're human.
Miss Bennet only offered me the slightest suspicion of her emotions, when she flinched at the sight of my gun, but it was fleeting, gone faster than a blink from those large brown eyes of hers and it could have meant anything, or absolutely nothing.
She passes her gaze over the office, the bottle of bourbon and I know she's judging, normally that would just rile me, but with her, for some reason it's alright. And then she's said those words, 'I need your help' and after that…nothing.
Most of the people that walk into my office don't really want to be there, and it shows. They're desperate to leave, anxious to get their business over and done with and just leave, because nine times out of ten what they want has everything to do with dishonesty. Whether they're lying or being lied to, spying on or being spied on, hiding or finding out secrets being in the office of a private investigator somehow is seedy. It all seems a little beneath them, I don't mind it, the attitude, the things I've seen in this line of work I know how low some people can go, and those are usually the ones who claim to have the highest moral standards.
But she's different, she may not like being here but she's in no hurry to leave. Instead she stands up, giving me the perfect view of those long legs of hers, and smoothing down her skirt, she takes a slow deliberate turn around the room, the smoke from her cigarette billowing and filling the small office easily. She stops by the window directly behind me, and seems to take a good long view at the street below. Strange the only reason I can ever think of standing in windows has nothing to do with the view, especially with a street like mine, but everything to do with being worried about being followed.
Just what sort of trouble are you in Miss Bennet? I hear her take a long drag from her cigarette before turning around, taking the few short steps to my desk and perching herself on the edge of my desk. Her skirt rides up a little as she crosses one leg over the other, she looks down at me and smiles for the first time since she walked into my office, and it's a picture perfect moment of flawlessly applied lipstick, to a perfect set of lips. Aware that I am perhaps staring a little too long at those lips I reach for the bottle and pour myself a stiff drink, holding the bourbon up at her as if to invite her to join me in a drink, she pauses slightly before passing me a look as if to say, 'there isn't a cold day in hell that would make me put to my mouth anything you can ascribe to being alcohol.'
I smile and laugh slightly, taking the glass firmly in my hand go over to where she had been standing in the window, the quickest of glances assures me that whatever or whoever she had been looking out for was long gone. Turning back to the room I prop myself against the glass my shoulder resting in the recess, I look at her directly waiting for her to begin.
It's a long wait, in the meantime it just seems as if she's content to stare me out, she's sussing me, sizing me up, seeing if I'm up to whatever sort of help she needs. I'm happy to let her get on with it, client privileges I guess. Seeing as she was going to be paying me I'd let her take all the time she needed.
'You've never had a partner Mr Darcy, why is that?' Her question takes me by surprise that's for sure. I look directly at her, and she continues. 'The years you spent in the force, one of NYPD's most promising recruit but you've never had a partner, not once in those years, or the past ten as a private detective, why?'
The smile of curiosity I've been wearing since this girl walked into my office slips a little; I set my glass on the table and walk slowly and deliberately over to her so I'm standing directly in front of her.
'Maybe it's because I work better alone; maybe I'm just not that social kind of guy, you know the kind who likes being part of a double act…' I lean a little into her, it's such a damn odd question I can't help but wonder just who this girl is.
She doesn't move an inch, not easily intimidated then but phantoms in windows have her spooked enough to seek out the help of a private eye. She smiles again, sweetly but with a hint of triumph, 'Perhaps Mr Darcy it's that infamous temperament of yours.'
I lean closer to her now, resting my hands on the desk at either side of her, I bring my face within inches of her and dare her to tell me more. She leans forward as well bridging the gap between us yet further, 'Certainly not the most forgiving person in the world are you Mr Darcy? I believe it's a record number of confessions from criminals in one year, and wasn't it soon after that you left the force?'
She certainly knew how to press all the wrong buttons, but I betrayed no emotion I was too much of a veteran to be shaken by a girl who had seemingly just walked off the street and into my life.
I stepped back and laughed slightly, 'You know at this point usually I'm the one asking all the questions.'
She shrugged, 'So I like to do my research, investigating the investigator if you will.'
'Cute,' do ya mind if I ask where exactly this 'research' is coming from? As one professional to another apparently...' I gesture to the already dying potted plant I've plumped next to her on the table intending for her to use it as an ashtray. Taking one final drag she grounds out the butt completely and slowly releases the smoke. I sit back down in my seat and leaning back in the chair prop both my feet on the table, my shoes knocking some of the files onto the floor. She leans back as well, her back arched, she looks towards me and picks up a file that's just balancing on the edge of the table, she holds it aloft, 'Oh you know... records, files, paperwork.'
'All those confessions, they were legitimate, every single last one of them…' Miss Bennet despite my best efforts has me riled; I knew what she was getting at with those comments about my time on the force and for the first time in as many years I find myself defending my past to a client. This is not usual for me, being on the back foot like this and I certainly don't like the feeling.
To make things worse she feigns empathy, 'Oh of course they were, it's not your fault all of them resisted arrest and you certainly shouldn't have been pushed out because of it.' She smiles at me again, it doesn't help.
'That's not why I was pushed out, what other source did you have?' She knows far too much to have gotten it all from sheets of paper. Sure enough she swings her legs over to my end of the table so as she's sitting next to my feet her hand gripping the edge of the table to regain her balance.
'Someone you know all to well,' she leans closer to me and speaks in a voice close to a whisper, 'how do you feel about your old boss?' If she was hoping for any other reaction than me gritting my teeth slightly she's disappointed. 'Chief Armstrong Reginald O'Reilly is a friend of the family.'
'Really…?' I shrug my non-complacency though just hearing the name of the man I loathe is enough to make my knuckles whiten. She doesn't miss a beat, looking me over closely; she nods knowingly and settles back.
'You know your reaction is certainly more neutral compared to Chief O'Reilly. When I asked him if he knew anything about you, he turned a shade of red that I don't think is entirely healthy.'
'I guess he misses me as much as I miss him,' I quip, she smiles and actually laughs a little, a gentle laugh, not obvious, not the kind to draw attention.
'Tell me Mr Darcy, whatever did you do to the poor man?' She's genuinely interested I can tell. And I don't mind telling her, I'm rather proud actually.
'I took a baseball bat to his car; I don't think he took to kindly to the damage.'
'Is that it? Is that why you were kicked out of the force?' She sounds as if she's disappointed. And here I was thinking she was disgusted by my 'violent temperament.'
'Amongst other things,' I hesitate before adding, 'I broke his nose as well.'
'Ah…' she replies, seeming to understand at last, 'certainly not the best way to get a promotion.' Then just when I think she's done she manages to make my blood stop cold. 'Funny, the way I heard it, you had a thing for the Chief's pretty, young wife.'
There's no sarcastic know-it-all tone in her voice now, she's staring coldly at me, like I was something she'd had the misfortune to step in. I take my feet off the table and get up slowly; she's pushed things too far.
The menace in my voice is clear as I press my face within inches of hers and snarl, 'you know what, funny thing is so did Reilly.' I pause to make sure my next words are as barbed as I intend, 'He had a thing for putting his fists to her, regularly, just to show her who was boss.'
I can see her falter, 'That's why I broke his nose and his car, if there's one thing I hate it's a man who'll put his hands on a woman in a way that ain't right. Even if he is my boss, and even if he gets me thrown out of the job I was crazy about.'
Her bottom lip quivers then, a moment of uncertainty allows me to see past the confident, self-assured dame to the little girl she's trying her best to hide. But it's only a moment; she promptly looks squarely back at me.
'Guess O'Reilly isn't the man you thought he was?' I step back taking my post by the window again.
She laughs, this time cold and cynical, 'They rarely are Mr Darcy.' She pushes herself off the table stands up and smoothes down her skirt. Walking swiftly to her side of table and where she had been sat she picks up her gloves and purse. She doesn't say another word as she takes out her lipstick grabs the nearest file and begins to scribble on it.
'When I said I needed your help I meant it was my father who needed your help. Believe me I advised him against it, my visit here hasn't changed my mind, but he's keen to meet you. Here's the address, we will expect you around four o'clock in the afternoon Mr Darcy.'
I pick up the file she tosses disdainfully across the table, recognising the address I settle back into a smile once more. 'And with your ever so warm attitude Miss Bennet what makes you think I'll come?'
She turns back to me, with her hand on the door handle, 'You haven't had a new case in months Mr Darcy, and you need the money. And seeing as how no doubt you recognise the address and name, you'll know money is something the Bennet's have plenty of.'
She walks out without a second look back.