Chapter 17: Officium
There was nothing to do. Alpha Kaine and I had long ago agreed that I was no longer his prisoner, I was just on house arrest, which I wasn’t sure was much better. The District members hated me. When they saw me wandering the halls or eating a meal they would sneer at me in disgust.
They just aren’t used to seeing humans around here, Alpha Kaine would tell me. They aren’t upset because you are human, they’re upset because I have forgiven you for your treason. They are set in their ways. They do not think you deserve to live for what you did. At the time I nodded and pretended like his reasoning made it all better and everything was perfect, but I knew better.
Humans weren’t supposed to be treated better than the dirt under their shoes. It simply wasn’t so and Alpha Kaine was surely the talk of the town when people heard that I was helping him with his chores around town.
I looked around as the door to his room creaked open. A guard down the hall quickly made advances towards me. “Does the Alpha know you’re leaving his chambers?” My eyes widen as he grabs my elbow, squeezing the appendage tightly as he tries to tug me back into the room I just exited.
“No. I’m going to see him,” I tell him, angrily, trying to pull my arm away from him. His grip only tightens further and I wince in pain.
“I’ll accompany you,” he tells me. “It wouldn’t be right for me to just let you go on your own. Who knows what kind of mischief you will get up to without proper supervision,” he explains. Around here, they treat me as if I am a small child hanging out around China. I’m not an accident waiting to happen. I’m a living, breathing, being.
“I think I can make it on my own,” I protest as he pulls me further down the hallway. “I know where Alpha Kaine is right now. I’m sure you have other people to monitor, rowdy District members aren’t uncommon, you know,” I reply. He continues to pull me down the hallway, stopping in front of a tall, thick doorway.
He waits patiently for me to knock on the door, stepping back and letting go of my elbow so he can cross his arms over his bulky chest. I’m not quite sure why Alpha Kaine busies himself with keeping all of these guards around. No one ever comes in unless they are invited to. He has more supporters than people who don’t agree with his way of running the District.
“Who are you?” a thin man asks as he pulls the door open. He nods in acknowledgment to the guard behind me, who nods back in turn.
“I’m here to speak with Alpha Kaine,” I tell him, pushing past him quickly. I instantly regret my decision.
They are in the middle of what appears to be some sort of meeting. Older men surround the table wearing nice button-down shirts and khaki pants. Most of their faces are unfamiliar to me but I take a deep breath and lace my fingers together anyways, waiting patiently for acknowledgment from Alpha Kaine.
“There’s someone here to see you, sir,” the man says, quietly. “A young lady.”
Alpha Kaine nods to the man and continues speaking, holding up a single finger in my general direction. I huff and roll my eyes. If he’s going to keep me locked up, I’m not going to respect his request for a moment to finish his sentence.
The man tries again to get his Alpha’s attention, “But sir, it’s the hu-”
“I have nothing to do around here,” I interrupt him, giving Alpha Kaine a pointed look to make sure he knew I thought it was his fault. Alpha Kaine looks up from the document he was looking over with a high ranking member of his militia and raises an eyebrow at me. His face doesn’t move but the man with him sputters.
“Alpha, are you really going to let this human interrupt our very important meeting about the safety of our District because she is bored?" Enforcer Cyrus meets my gaze from across the room before he turns back to the stack of papers in front of him.
Alpha Kaine doesn’t look amused with my outburst nor does he look happy with the way the man spoke to him, but he humors me anyways. “Are you looking for a task?”
“Yes,” I respond. I wouldn’t say that we were close by any stretch of the imagination. We were sort of roommates and we seldom got along. The last real fight I had with him was last week and I wasn’t even the one to rile him up. I didn’t care if he hated me or not but it was safe to say that I liked him better when he liked me. I think the same goes for him as well.
“She can go scrub out the prison cells in the basement. They’re filthy. It would do her good to know what most of her kind have to live with. Maybe she would be more appreciative of the boredom she has been granted.” I ignore him, so does Alpha Kaine.
“I don’t suppose you would want to do any research for the militia, would you, Anita?” I shake my head and cross my arms over my chest.
“Dust the records room,” Enforcer Cyrus speaks up. “Somme of us do have to do that research and it’s so musky in there.“Alpha Kaine accepts this answer and nods to me.
“Can you tell my bodyguard to back off then?” I ask, jerking a thumb behind me to the bulky man lurking by the doorframe. He stands still and nods to his Alpha in acknowledgment but pretends that he doesn’t hear my comment.
“You are dismissed,” he tells the guard with a pointed look in my direction. Irritation washes over his face in waves as he waits for me to leave. “Are you satisfied, Anita?” The man’s eyes widen at Alpha Kaine’s casual mention of my name as if he swore in a church.
“Yes, thank you. I’ll be on my way,” I tell him before turning on my heel to leave without another word.
I didn’t actually need a task to do. I really just needed him to know that I was going to be leaving the safety of my bedroom. It was my subtle way of informing him I was going out and that if he didn’t see me for a while, he should come after me to make sure none of his stupid District members ate me alive or something like that.
They never really wanted me to work around here. I think some of the Lycan’s are worried I’ll uncover some sort of secret passageway or something and escape with some sacred artifact they keep locked away somewhere.
I make my way back to the closet I know resides at the end of the hall and open it confidently. I may have only cleaned a few things in my short-lived career as a maid but I did remember where the cleaning supply closet was. I pull the bucket from the top of the shelf and carefully lift a duster and a bottle of cleaning spray from it. I place the bucket back and raise my eyebrows at the guard, who had returned to his post rather quickly after Alpha Kaine told him he was dismissed.
“Where is the record room?” He points down the hallway to a set of double doors. I’d seen them countless times, but I’d never been inside before. “Thanks,” I tell him.
The room is bigger than I thought it was. It’s more of a library than a record room. Books line the shelves from left to right, top to bottom. Each wall in the supposed record room is lined with these shelves. There are desks off to the side of the room, covered with files and papers that someone has left half combed through.
“Can I help you?” a man asks from the corner. He is younger, not quite the old lady with glasses and a habit for yelling at everyone to quiet down that I was expecting. He breathes in deeply through his nose subtly. When my scent registers with him as that of a human he tries not to react.
I watch the emotions flicker across his face with mild curiosity. Anger. Confusion. Wariness. Acceptance.
“I’m just here to dust,” I tell him. “The Alpha has instructed me to do so. When I’m done I’ll be out of your hair.” I try to purse my lips to remain indifferent as I imagine his potential reaction if I had said fur instead of hair. “I’ll be quiet,” I add.
“No need,” he says, brushing past me as he walks to close the door behind me. “No one from the Sector ever comes in here unless it’s on Alpha Kaine’s orders. If someone comes in they’ll probably kick you out because of your...” he trails off awkwardly, searching for the right word to use that won’t offend me. “Status here,” he finishes. He draws his eyebrows together as he reconsiders the wording but I save him the trouble by nodding in understanding.
“I know, they think I’m a threat and I want to look at all of their plans to share them with the Rogues or something.” He seems shocked and quickly tries to backtrack.
“No, I didn’t mean-”
“I’ve heard it all before. I can’t say I think much higher of anyone around here anyways. I’ll try to be quick so I don’t have to come back and redo anything later if someone comes in,” I smile gently. The Shifter visibly relaxes and walks towards his desk at the center of the room.
“If you touch or steal anything that is outside of the jurisdiction of your work I am liable to report you to the Alpha and his men. They will do with you what they wish.” It isn’t a harsh warning, it’s a friendly one. He isn’t looking for a reason to report me but if I do anything that could sacrifice his safety, he won’t hesitate to do it to save his own skin. I can’t judge him for that.
I would do the same.
I start at the far end of the room, by the door. I let the duster run gently along the doorframe, my eyes flicking over the guard at the other end of the hallway, who I can easily make out through the foggy glass. “Do you want me to wipe down the glass, as well?” I call out.
“If you have the cleaner for it,” he replies. “The last person who dusted the records room only had a dusting solution with them. They just about ruined the glass on those doors.”
“Don’t worry. I have it” I reply, and get back to my job. The work goes by relatively quick, there is only the faintest hint of dust along all of the wood surfaces. It doesn’t take long for me to clear them all away on the front end of the library.
I move down the aisles of shelving, glancing at all fo the book titles with mild interest before I get to the record side of the room. The library was split in half, you see. The History of Slethia was encased in hardcovers and placed gently on ornate wooden shelves, the more modern part of the library held file cabinets and shelves with stacks of papers and bookmarked sections.
On one of the filing cabinets, there was an open lock. The drawer was parted and the files inside were scattered around the desk randomly. It was clear that whoever had been looking for the files had either forgotten to put them back or had the intention of returning. I look closer at the files, blindly waving my duster to appear busy so the man guarding the records wouldn’t be suspicious.
That’s when I saw it. John’s file was on top of the stack, his bright smiling face looked back at me and I smiled back until I noticed the big red X that was painted over his face.