“Is there?” Aryssa asked, craning her neck to see behind him.
Irk turned and snorted before barking, “Gee in here, Miss Thornhart dunna have all day to bide for ye!”
Aryssa sighed inwardly. The Fairy Godmother had had words with Irk time and again for scaring off potential clients with his gruff manner. If she ever found the time she would have to see about getting that assistant.
Preparing to rise and seek out the shy violet in the waiting room, she saw a red hood peek around the door. The hand that held the cloak tight at the neck was small and slender with dainty fingers. The poor child was probably scared to death.
“Come in, child,” Aryssa called gently. “Thank you, Irk. I’ll take it from here.”
The Dwarf grunted before clomping away again, the visitor pressing herself against the door to get out of his way. Aryssa did rise then and gestured to the chair on the other side of the large wooden desk.
“Come in and have a seat, child,” she said again. After a moment the girl turned, rolled her shoulders back, and crossed over to her.
She threw back the hood of her red velvet cloak to reveal the face not of a child but a young woman, though her long auburn locks were tamed into a pair of braids that now cascaded past her shoulders. Eager green eyes stared back at Aryssa over a pert nose and cheeks lightly dusted with freckles. Her thin bottom lip, the Fairy Godmother noted, bore the indentation of teeth from a habit of worrying. A habit confirmed a moment later when the woman sucked the lip between her teeth.
“Now, how can I be of service?”
Throwing her shoulders back again in what Aryssa assumed was an attempt at bravado, the maiden answered. “My name is Pepper Crimson. I understand you are looking for an assistant.”
Aryssa lowered herself back into the chair with a smile. “I am. Are you applying for the position?”
“I am.” She replied, raising her chin.
“I see. What are your qualifications?”
“Qualifications?” Her smile faltered.
“Your schooling, experience, what have you done previously?”
“Er- well, I’ve had the same amount of schooling as anyone else.”
“Have you ever worked before?”
“No.” Pepper looked crestfallen.
“Miss Crimson,” Aryssa said patiently, “if it is your intention to apprentice for a Fairy Godmother you must have additional training. There are many excellent academies throughout Davenmour I can recommend to you with varying price points-“
“No!” Pepper cut in. “Not that I wouldn’t be honored, of course, Godmother, but that’s not why I want to work for you. I want to be a detective!”
Aryssa sat back, surprise etched on her face. “You want to be a detective?”
“Yes’m. I’ve read loads of detective stories and I’ve followed your cases ever since I was a little girl. There aren’t too many lady detectives around, as you well know, and I want to learn from the best. Why, I was just pleased as punch when I read you’d transferred to Davenmour. I remember because it was on my 12th birthday and I felt like the news was a special present just for me!”
Aryssa cocked an eyebrow. The young lady who sat beaming at her from across the desk seemed optimistic to the point of excess. She could only imagine what Pepper thought working as a detective meant.
“It isn’t like you read in books, Pepper. Detective work is dangerous, you can be seriously injured or killed if you don’t know what you’re doing. The Royal Academy of Law Enforcement has been accepting maidens for years. Why not try them first and come back after you have completed your training?”
Pepper worried her lip again. “I would, only my father has some influence with the Constabulary and I wouldn’t want any special treatment.”
Aryssa smiled wryly. “In other words, your father wouldn’t exactly be over the moon if you went into law enforcement.”
Pepper’s smile was watery. “Not exactly, no.”
Aryssa sighed and shook her head. “How old are you, Pepper?”
“My 19th birthday passed one month ago.”
“So, you’re old enough to make your own decisions. A Fairy Godmother solving crimes instead of granting wishes is still a fairly new idea. I’m treading water with the Detective Chief Inspector as it is. If your father breathes down his neck, he’ll breathe down mine. He might even use it as an excuse to shut me down.” Aryssa mused. “No, I’m sorry. You should speak with your father if this is what you really want to do and look into the academy.”
Pepper folded her hands across her lap. “I’m afraid that is quite impossible.”
Aryssa tilted her head slightly and reached her senses out towards the young woman. Not as confident as she appeared, Pepper was frustrated almost to the point of despair. Reaching further still, the Fairy Godmother picked up on her thoughts.
I can’t talk to Father! He treats me like a child, a delicate flower that might wither if touched. I want to prove myself to him, show him that I’m not some porcelain doll!
Aryssa looked upon the maid with sadness as she tented her fingers. She understood the frustration of being held back by those who refused to see your full potential. Pepper sure had gumption but she didn’t really know her. Was she simply eager to relive some fantasy from a favorite novel? Could Aryssa risk the business she worked so hard to build for some chit who might be impulsive and reckless, determined to show up her overprotective father?
“Besides,” Pepper was saying as she leaned forward, “I could improve business.”
“How do you mean?”
“The first person a client meets when they come to see you is him.” Pepper jerked her head toward the waiting room where Irk loomed like a vulture. “That could be very unnerving for someone looking for help but is hesitant to see a constable. I admit I’m no Honeypetal but a pretty face and pleasant demeanor would put your clients more at ease. I can read and write, as I’ve said, so I can take messages and make appointments when you’re away.”
There was a glint of mischief and daring in the woman’s eye that resonated with Aryssa. Yes, Pepper had gumption as well as intelligence. She didn’t even flinch at the idea of deposing Irk however intimidating the Dwarf was. She had a point and Irk would be glad to get out of the office. He preferred to hit the streets and get his hands dirty anyway.
“Alright,” Aryssa said, “we’ll do a trial run but you are to do exactly as I say. Your role is strictly administrative. There are to be no heroics, understand?”
Pepper squealed, clapped her hands, and practically did a jig while Aryssa, struggling against her own hilarity, raised a disapproving eyebrow.
“Yes, Godmother, I understand,” Pepper said, soberly.
A large raven perched upon the windowsill and gave Aryssa a single squawk before glancing around the office.
Aryssa responded. “Good, because it looks like we have a case.”