The ceiling fan whirled in lazy circles, sending eddies of air towards the man at the desk. Extending a long
finger, the man secured an errant curl behind his ear. He yawned and stretched, his broad shoulders popping as
the joints settled in their sockets. Glancing over his shoulder, he checked the antique wall clock; the hour hand chased
around the face by the ever-ticking seconds. His client was almost late and had but a minute and forty-two seconds to
make an appearance.
The man adjusted his nameplate, square white letters on cherry wood veneer. Detective Cyrus. He
traced a finger over the words with a sigh. How he longed for the textured grain of real wood and not another plastic
imitation. The mahogany desk was no different, mere simulacra of a lost era, one of elegance and refinery.
The detective sighed and pinched the bridge of his aquiline nose, ignoring the pressure swelling behind his eyes.
A beep and flash on his desktop screen announced his client’s arrival. The man was right on time.
Benji MacDowell walked into the antiquarian office sporting a spiffy twenty-second century getup, a second skin suit
that melded to the contours of his physique. Benji was pushing thirty, but due to the marvel of longevity treatment he didn’t
look a day older than twenty. The detective, on the other hand, seemed older than his visage of thirty-five portrayed.
Life had creased the corners of his eyes and left furrows around his mouth, but it did not mar the detective’s dashing
good looks, a fact of which the detective was well aware.
Cyrus regarded his client, taking in the details: clean-shaven, blond curly hair, lean but muscular build, pale blue
eyes and a face both familiar and not easy to forget. Offering his hand from where he stood behind the desk, the detective
was grateful for the space between them as he swallowed the queasy feeling rising from his gut. It’s like seeing a ghost. Cyrus
plunged headfirst into the ice-cold wash of unpleasant memory. He tried not to stare at the man, and tried even
harder not to remember.
Without hesitation, Benji slid a datapad across the faux wood desk, the banking application showing a rather generous
sum to be transferred into Cyrus’s bank account.
'Is this to your satisfaction?? he asked, smiling.
'Quite, thank you.? Cyrus counted the zeros and returned the smile as he lit a replica Cuban cigar, needing a distraction
for his nervous hands. 'You know, I take my work seriously.?
'Your reputation precedes you.? Benji was well aware of Cyrus’s notoriety. ‚Honestly, you’re my last resort. I’ve been
to every other,? he paused searching for the politically correct term, 'information assistant in this city and they’ve all
returned empty handed. So I’ve come to you. Although, I have my reservations.? The man slid the datapad into a
seamless pocket and looked around the room. 'My associates assure me you make a habit of getting to the bottom of things
by whatever means necessary.?
Cyrus might have gloated were he not so engrossed in the study of Benji’s facial features.
'And this eccentricity,? Benji raised his neat, narrow brows, 'is rather endearing.?
Blowing a stream of white smoke between thin lips, Cyrus leaned forward in his chair and oiled on the charm.
'Well, sir. I am in high demand, Detective extraordinaire and all. So if you don’t mind, I’ll be getting on with business.?
'It’s really rather quaint.?
Cyrus chuckled at Benji’s remark, biting back the facetious remark on his tongue.
'I expect weekly reports and...? The detective did not appreciate being told how to do his
'I provide the finest quality service, sir. Weekly reports and all that. Rest assured the contract will be honored.?
Cyrus gazed into the man’s implacable eyes, and saw the ghosts of tears and a lifetime of untruths; an absent father.
It was rare indeed for the stalwart detective to be moved by his clients’ cases. Tragedy was a fact of life. Everyone had
a sad story, and Cyrus’s job wasn’t to wipe their eyes but provide answers to their questions: provide some solace,
some peace of mind—for a price of course. He too had to eat.
But Benji was different somehow.