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4: A Worm Named Holger

Early morning. Clarice’s favourite time to work; and the reason why she was more than happy to see that no one else had arrived at the corner office that was West Harbour’s lone law firm. The clock on the wall ticked 5am as she opened the door and switched on the light, humming softly while as she crossed over to her desk with a cup of coffee in hand.

The office was a typical lawyer workspace. Unexcessive size, plain brown colour painting, a reasonably big corner room shelf with just about enough books to fill it, and rows of files arranged on the desks in the room as a reminder of work done the previous day and the one to be embarked on that day. In short, the office was simple, moderate, and business; just the way Clarice liked it.

She was just settling into her chair when the door opened once again and Wendy Myles, Clarice’s work colleague and best friend, walked in.

Clarice and Wendy had known each other since... Well, since they both could remember. They grew up together as neighbours, attended the same preschool, elementary school, high school, even the same university. They had been practically joined at the hip since they both could walk.

But while Clarice engaged in all types of law practices, her mild-mannered, redheaded, freckled best friend was more concentrated on marital law; the foundation of the society, she had called it.

Unfortunately though, being traditional town that it was, West Harbour rarely had marital disputes; or any legal issues concerning marriage for that matter. So, Wendy had to extend her services to the neighbouring towns and provinces, which meant she travelled in and out of the town a lot.

But she was back in town that morning; and back at work too by the looks of it.

“Hey, Wendy,” Clarice greeted from behind her laptop.

“Clarice, hi, ” she returned, looking a bit surprised that the other woman was even around. “Umm, isn’t it a little bit too early for you to be at work?”

“I come to work early every day, Wendy,” Clarice defended herself.

“Yes, but that usually meant seven o’clock,” returned Wendy. “I mean, I myself won’t be here if not for the work I left unfinished from yesterday.”

“Well, you know what they say, the early bird catches the worm.”

“And this worm won’t happen to be a recently arrived rich foreigner named Michael Holger, would it?”

Wendy came to sit on Clarice’s desk with that best friend expression firmly on her face; she wanted the full gist. The latter returned it with an exasperated groan.

Of course, Wendy knew about it, Clarice thought infuriatingly to herself; the whole of West Harbour probably knew about it too. That was the thing about small towns. Everybody knew everything about everybody.

“How did you get to know about this whole thing with Michael Holger?” she asked.

“Well, the whole station heard you screaming about it to your father,” Wendy replied.

And then, they probably told their friends and family who told other friends and family, and so on like that till it became the talk of the town, Clarice added in her mind, still not feeling any less annoyed at it.

“So?” asked Wendy.

“So what?” Clarice didn’t understand what the other woman was driving at.

“Well, how was he?” she asked again, very excited. “I mean, you did get to see the guy after all, didn’t you?”

“I did, and he was a exactly like the typical big city rich guy in a small town that I’d thought he’d be. Cocky, arrogant, and absolutely full of himself.” Clarice thought that she should add that he was a bit odd too; like the strange sinister vibe that her body just seemed to keep picking up from him throughout the encounter even without any evidence to show the danger, or even the weird way that his eyes appeared and made her feel all woozy before she was able to blink it away.

But she thought better of it. It was probably her imagination messing with her mind, she presumed. Plus then, her computer beeped and a frown crossed her face. “That’s strange,” she said.

“What is?” asked Wendy, finally taking a look at what Clarice had been doing all along.

“You see, I wanted to do a background check on Michael Holger. You know, get to understand what the whole deal with the guy was. So, I thought I’d start with a simple Google search,” she explained. “But it’s telling me now that that name doesn’t exist.” She pressed the refresh button just to be sure.

“Well, that’s definitely strange,” Wendy conceited. “But that doesn’t confirm anything. Maybe he’s just not into the whole social media thing.”

“Even for at least an email or a Facebook account?”

“It would make sense if he’s technophobic. I mean, look at my grandmother.”

“Michael Holger isn’t your grandma Felicia, Wendy.”

Wendy had to admit that Clarice did have a point there. It was unthinkable that someone didn’t exist on the internet in the present day and age. Of course, it could be that the man really was a technophobe; or just downright not interested in his internet presence. But the probability of that being true was astronomical, especially if he was the young elite that whole town had been telling her he was.

That left room for only one other possibility. Michael Holger was hiding something.

Unfortunately, Wendy didn’t get to hammer out the situation with Clarice as she wanted- or just tell the other woman that perhaps she was overreacting to the whole matter and the discovery might not be that big of a deal- as the latter was already out of her seat and making for exit, typing something intently on her phone as she went. “Clarice, where are you going?” she asked

“To solve this case,” Clarice replied, showing Wendy what she had been typing. “It’s just like my father used to say. If you want to truly get to know the devil, go on a date with him.”

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