Sins of the Father(4)

By: Hannah Howe

“What hen night?” I frowned.

“You have to have a hen night,” Faye insisted. “That is tradition. What do you think about booking a male stripper?”

“Too tacky,” I scowled.

“Okay,” she sighed, “we’ll just get you pissed instead; get you to do a striptease, take some photographs and plaster them over the Internet.”

“You do that,” I said, “and you’re fired.”

“I’m only joking, Sam,” Faye laughed; “don’t look at me like that.”

It was time to change the subject; time to get down to business. “How did you get on at the seminar?” I asked.

Faye opened her desk drawer. She held up an object, a cigar-shaped pen. “I bought you a present.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s a spy pen. Audio, video, photography; great for eavesdropping and recording conversations. They also have a coat hanger spy camera, a camera you can hide in a USB, in a smoke alarm or alarm clock. And cameras you can conceal in air fresheners and button holes.”

“We’re running an enquiry agency,” I said, my fingers caressing the spy pen, “not MI5.”

“You got to get with it, girl,” Faye said, clicking her fingers. “You got to get up to date. You spend too much time in the past. All your music, DVDs, books...they’re ancient. At work, you rely on your wits and outdated methods. If we don’t get up to date, the others will run past us.”

“Tell you what,” I said, placing the spy pen on my desk, “you get up to date. You run into the future then come back and tell me what it’s like.”

“Okay,” Faye grinned, “so officially I’m in charge of modernizing the business?”

I switched on my computer. In terms of technology, I acknowledged that a computer was essential, though already a bridge too far. “You modernize,” I said, “but don’t do anything too radical.”

Faye offered me a mock salute. “Aye, aye, ma’am; I’ll ask your permission first.”

I ignored her, my attention captured by a stream of emails. Apparently, my emails were in danger of disappearing, unless I provided my security details to someone with no name and no business address. The email was addressed to, ‘Dear User’. It was a scam, of course; cyber criminals – a scourge of the modern age. I deleted the email and blocked the sender; some people are so pathetic, so sad. On a good day, they would elicit my sympathy; I was missing Alan already, so this was not a good day.

“And talking of modernizing,” Faye said, standing, parading in front of me, “what do you think of my new outfit?”

I glanced up and admired Faye’s clothing. She was dressed in black slacks, a white blouse and a black tie. A tan waistcoat completed her attire. Combined with her natural blonde ringlets, her pink nail varnish and pink lips, the outfit was stunning. I nodded my approval. “You look very smart.”

“Think it’ll impress our clients?” Faye asked, fishing for a further compliment.

“If they’re male,” I said, “it’ll knock them dead.”

“I’m not looking for that,” Faye frowned. She returned to her desk where she adjusted her files. “But I do want your respect, Sam.”

“You have my respect,” I said.

“I have your respect and no one else’s.” Faye stared at her desk. She lapsed into a melancholy silence. Such moods troubled her several times a day, but after a moment’s introspection, she usually rallied.

“Sorry,” she apologized, “I lost myself for a second.” She straightened the files again and her features brightened. Once more, she’d lifted the veil, fought off the gloom. “So you’re happy with the spy pen?”

“Very happy,” I said.

“Great.” Faye picked up a bundle of letters, for posting. As she walked to the office door, she said, “Don’t go picking your nose or scratching your arse, because I’ve installed a camera up there too.”

I followed her gaze to the smoke alarm, fitted to the ceiling. Then, with Big Sister looking on, I got down to business and replied to some genuine emails.