Kylie swelled with irritation for a moment, but quietly bit her tongue. The gesture was enough to give something away though – my assistant had never once displayed any visible sign of bother concerning orders, observations, or even brutally honest remarks I had made. This meant that she, too, was stressed about whatever was happening, and therefore not only knew what it was, but was also lying to me about it.
My concern rose to a new height.
“It’s Coppersmith,” I remarked. “Whatever is happening, it’s revolving around him.”
“Coppersmith?” She asked, cleverly masking recognition. Or so she thought.
“Yes, he’s the only person here who doesn’t appear to be burdened by crippling fear and tension,” I observed. “If anything, he looked positively delighted when I encountered him earlier.”
“I didn’t realize that he was here today,” Kylie replied.
“Regardless…I need to see some of the recent reports. I have to review some of the latest projections.”
“Sir,” Kylie asked with sincere compassion, her hand resting against mine, “how is your condition?”
I pulled my hand free from hers, somewhat bemused by her overly fond gesture. “I am presently stable.”
“No updates? Nothing at all?”
“…None,” I lied.
Kylie frowned, gazing into my eyes for a moment.
“Those reports, please,” I reminded her.
“…Right. Right away, Sir.”
As she rummaged through a nearby shelf of folders and binders, I dwelled on the oddness of my staff and how bizarre she was acting. I quickly concluded that I should review and revoke any access to my personal files that she might have.
* * *
The projections looked reasonable; nothing presented itself that might raise a red flag with Alphonse Megami. I also independently checked on the arrangements that I had Kylie schedule – they all looked to be in order, although I wondered privately what might have changed if she knew how important this meeting was going to be.
It wasn’t like me to doubt my executive assistant, but I did not tolerate distrust from those who occupied the position, and I wondered when I would need to remove her from the spot.
Or perhaps, I thought to myself, I would need to deal with the problem head-on.
Which meant Coppersmith.
“Contact him,” I commanded her as I walked back into her small office. “It’s time that I get to the bottom of things.”
I raised my eyebrows in irritation – I didn’t appreciate being patronized. “You know damned well who I mean.”
Kylie lifted the phone and dialed a number. “Yes, you are being summoned to – that’s right. Yes. I…of course.” She hung up and turned to me with an impartial glance. “He will be in your office in approximately ten minutes.”
“Good,” I answered, contemplating the impending confrontation. “It is time that he and I had ourselves a little chat…”
* * *
“You asked to see me?” Coppersmith grinned, popping his head into my office. At the behest of my nod, he happily let himself in through the doorway, closing the door behind himself and strolling over to sit down in front of my desk. I’d never seen him so jovial before today, and it put a sickening pit in the depths of my stomach.
I, meanwhile, was standing at the window, surveying the sight of the buildings across the street. It would likely be the last time that I had this particular view.
“I would like some answers,” I remarked calmly.
“Well, whatever do you mean?”
“Don’t play stupid with me,” my voice snapped. A cough started to sputter from my lips. I quickly dabbed at them with my handkerchief, wishing to continue on with the discussion. Unfortunately, the effect had already been lost, and my opponent did not seem bothered in the slightest.
“Such a nasty cough,” he observed. “You should probably get that checked out, you know. Might be indicative of something that’s more…serious.”