"Welcome, we`re sure you´ll be very at home here and if you need anything just let me know" The smartly suited man gently touches her shoulder.
"Yes, I´m sure you will" Julie curtly retorts and pulls Natascha quickly away in the other direction down the corridor past busy people chattering inside amongst paper filled offices as they rush by. "take no notice of him, he tried it on with everyone...even me...and god did I fall for that one" Julie glances to Natascha frowning a little at her "I´m telling you, the next time you feel a man by your side at work, be sure he wants not you, but something else, power, attention, your reputation, respect, whatever he is lacking he´ll suck it from you, be warned my dear, a hard working lady like you are prime prey"
Julie, a pretty young woman with ash blond hair that wisps off her head like finely spun spider`s thread, seems to teeter rather than walk with her frame as fragile as a bird just out of it`s cage. "Now, here`s your office" She opens the wooden door with an opaque glass panel to small, square room with filing cabinets in the corner and small desk stacked full of files and documents, a pin board behind the simple leather chair and a couple of pens thrown into a terracotta mug. "You have your first case today, I heard. They don`t mess about here you know, but I can see you´ll do just fine, if you don`t try anything too brave." Julie holds the door open for a second resting her eyes on her face, Natascha sees a flash of fear in her eyes before she throws her glance in the other direction closing the door behind her.
Natascha greets a woman in a fur coat, with a slight looking man in brown corduroy trousers who is sitting down, his head hanging to show his thinning hair, his shoulders slump and seem defeated. "Thank you for looking into this" the fur-clad woman is clasping Natascha`s hands with both of hers. "I can`t tell you how grateful I am...." She pauses, momentarily, turning back to the man on the chair and she turns back remembering "...We are...for this investigation" there is a pause then Natascha begins "Mrs. Domina, what I am going to tell you, may be of a sensitive nature.."
"Oh, I understand, we´re ready for it" she glances back at her heaped-over husband. "Just knowing would give us peace"
"Mrs. Domina.." Natascha begins and looks over to her office where records and documents lay "...Did you know that your daughter was heavily into narcotic substances." She breathes "and I don`t just mean now and again, I mean heavily, and different kinds, it seems every week" Natascha feels Mrs Domina remove her hand away from hers.
"But that`s not possible, I took her to school myself, after every holiday and we only gave her the best school. They wouldn´t allow it, not there and her grades, her grades were always good, never a slip out of line, we never heard a word, we gave her only the best" Mrs. Domina protests
"All of those things are true, and there are many ways that she was able to keep up these twin lives. Circulation in the school is easy, in such an enclosed encampment away from daily life and there is the money to buy it, many of the girls have stashes of their own, saved over from parents gift money." Natascha says gravely.
"But what about the grades, I would have known, she couldn`t have.."
"Grades are not as hard as reinventing whole systems and it`s just about jumping the through the hoops and when you know how.....many of these girls have access to tricks from seniors and as the school prides itself on tradition, not much changes through the years the drugs may even have helped her to conform, leaving the experimenting to her narcotic underworld...unfortunately".
Mrs. Domina looks on at her disbelievingly
"I know this is hard to take in, but the autopsy unmistakeably says that it was a case of a mixed cocktail prescribed and illegal drugs that sent her over the edge. Lior was a bright girl and had we have got to her earlier we would have been able to turn her experimenting into a realm that would have been for the benefit of all, not the underworld that took her light"
Mrs. Domina clearly stunned, Natascha gets a chair for her and sits her gently down and brings her a glass of fresh, still water.
"..But your daughter`s life has brought us closer to the truth, her case can take us further in what we only had hints of before that elite academies are breeding grounds for these kinds of activities. Hundreds of girls and boys could have been lost at varying degrees, but we`re one step closer to getting us into their prison.
"Prision"? Mrs. Domina`s speech is shrill and uncontrolled.
"I know you don`t see it that way, Mrs. Domina, but they`re turning out compliant robots and hundreds of lost souls are disappearing deeper into underworlds of drugs and escapism. If we force them into straight jackets, this is where they will willingly go. We need to bring them back. The world needs them right now and your daughter`s descent, has sadly taken us one step closer to bringing them here." Natascha sits with her, holds her hand and looks into her empty, tearful eyes. "Mrs. Domina do you remember times when she just wanted to be herself and let her mind free." Silence.
Mrs. Domina suddenly jumps up throwing the cup of water onto the floor and towers above Natascha looking down threateningly.
"How Dare you tell me how I should have raised my daughter" Mrs Domina grabs the little man slumped silently in the plastic chair. "Come on, we´ve no business here" He follows behind Mrs. Domina`s huge presence down as she disappears down the corridor. Natascha hangs her head momentarily, takes a breath and looks up to see Julie leaning on a filing cabinet, clutching a document.
"Nice work Tascha, what did I tell you about being brave"?
Natascha ignores her comment and takes the document, intuitively. "What else have you got"?
"It`s another girl, in the same school" Julie sees she`s undeterred "This time a prefect, seems she got access to what comes in and what comes out...a real perfectionist and she`s got a strategy too"
"Man, we need these girls, what they could be doing with there brains, building whole new economies, new systems."
"Yeah they could sort out my taxes" Julie comments dryly. Natascha frowns at her.
"Oh sorry miss righteous, I bite my tongue, but you must admit it`s darn complicated, especially now that new austerity policy has gone out"
"Yes, and that`s exactly why we need them, for everyone. Have you got anything else? what`s her network".
"Slow down Missy, you just arrived"
"We haven`t got time, Julie, we´re running out"
Natascha turns her back on Julie and sifts hastily through the document. In her office, surrounded by files, she realises one file is missing from the group, but where would that be? Julie had gone home already and it was getting late, but she had to find it. She left the door open and strode quickly down the corridor whilst her eyes were glazed onto the document. As she turned the corner into the open plan office, she felt a dull thud against her head, strong arms against hers causing her to drop her paper and a deep voice echo her own.
She went to pick up her paper but large square like hands were already upon her document and handing it to her as she stood up.
"Thank you" She said not looking up but instead brushing the dust of the document so it could be read
"Is everything still there"? She heard a powerful voice, gently say, slightly teasing.
Natascha smiled and looked up. As her eyes met with his they had a distinct colour of aquamarine and a center as deep as a black hole. Her being delved momentarily into a depth that brought a sharp awareness of consciousness that swirled around her tense being, relaxed her muscles instantaneously and stirred her inner chasm until hitting her belly with an encasement of butterflies, set finally free on their first flight from a collectors cage, on a warm spring day fresh after a night of storms and rain.
"I think so." Natascha replied softly.
He smiled back at her. They stood there in collective silence until she see a little nick of blood on his arm and remembers herself.
"Oh, sorry, did I hurt you"? She reaches out to his arm
"It`s only a scratch" His voice bass and low is calming Natascha thinks wipes bubble of blood away with her finger. "Quite some strength you have there", he takes her hand as her finger touches his skin, he turns her hand over in his palm "The nails are not even that long" he smiles, she pulls her hand a little back, but he holds it there for a moment, before releasing it, a sanguine colour eagerly rushes to warm her cheeks, she feels it and lowers her eyes before raising them again to his and he smiles back at her.
"Yes, it is."
"I was looking for something...
....a missing file
" a missing file"
He echos her again. She smiles briefly.
"Same thing, I left it here, but I´m working at home. More comfy that this dead cell....I mean office"
Natascha looks around the open plan sprawl full of cardboard separators for each person and wooden tables strewn with papers.
"I didn´t notice either the first few months I was here, too engrossed in the files, each case, another enigma to solve".
"Yeah, each with its own code to crack"
"Oh don`t say it like you don`t know what I´m talking about, Miss 'I-just-need-that-missing-file'"
"Hmm? I´m here to transform the system, not to crack the code"
"Yes, of course and how, may I ask, will you be able to transform the system without cracking the code"?
Natascha started to speak, "Wait a minute", then stopped. She cleared her throat and shifted from one foot to another. He tipped his head to one side and waited for her to answer. "I don`t even know your name" she blurted out.
"You`re quite right. Dimitry. From Mal research" He responds in a faux formal voice smiling, and holds out his hand for her to shake.
"Natascha" she does so, ignoring his teasing and notices again how strong his hands are, yet he shakes her hand gently. "But I thought you worked here"?
"Did...I am onto a case now that still involves this place and so I am between worlds so to speak whilst I get through this one....and I came back here, because I thought I forgot something and I am trying to find it again..." He looks around
"Maybe you`re looking to hard" she suggests softly
"...But the place is a mess and the files are not kept up to date...." He continues, oblivious momentarily to what she`s just said, but then stops. Their eyes meet for a moment and then she looks at the to the suddenly interesting floor.
"Listen, I have an extra helmet, do you want to get that missing file, whilst I grab what I need and then we can go and get a bite to eat or something, I bet you haven`t even thought about dinner".
"No, you`re right, I haven`t, is there somewhere near? I don`t know the neighbourhood."
"We´ll find somewhere, I heard there is Pakistani segregation meeting on late tonight on the second floor, so I can always bring you back here afterwards if you want to keep working."
"Or maybe you want to give yourself a rest so you still have energy to save the world tomorrow"
"or crack the code you mean"? she teases back to him
"That too" He smiles, as he touches her arm, "See you in fifteen minutes then"
"I don`t need that long...do you"? She continues teasing "Make it thirteen"
He lets out a deep bellowing laugh and they cross each other`s path, basking in light.