Bloody nightingale

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The tram-ride to Pratt’s Secretarial Agency was twice as long as the ride to the nightclub but even then it wasn’t a long journey. All the more for Delphine, who could be very patient but still had her limits as most people often do. This way she could use the journey to familiarize herself with Victson’s scenery but not be there long enough to start thinking about what happened Friday night.

She got off on Tenner Street and walked up the entire block before turning the recommended corner on Pondacherry road. Between a telephone operative building and a green-grocers she found Pratt’s. Unfortunately named, she thought with a little laugh. Smoothing down her new navy dress-suit and adjusting the matching felt-cloche atop her head, Delphine took some soothing breaths before she bit the bullet and walked in.

The familiar smells of lemon disinfectant and printing-paper wafted through the air as she stepped into the reception area. At the clerks desk sat a young woman around Delphine’s age with pale, blond hair, murky-brown eyes and a permanently bored expression. Delphine cleared her throat to get the woman’s attention and when that didn’t work she gave the bell on the desk a single ‘ding!’.

“Can I help you?” The woman asked her, not sounding remotely helpful.

“Delphine Price, the new typist. I believe Ms. Abernath is expecting me?”

“Oh right, you’re the new girl. Ms. Abernath is currently in a meeting right now but if you’ll follow me I’ll take you the adjoining office. That’s the waiting room for only typists and the most important clientele.”

Delphine followed the woman up eight flights of checkerboard, marble stairs, concluding at the fourth floor in front of a door labeled: ‘Ms. Abernath: CEO’. Delphine stifled what little nerves she still had, clenching the sides of her skirts just once more before the door was opened and she was met with a rather miffed-looking girl on the other side.

“Ms. Abernath is currently in a meeting so whatever it is I must ask that you wait downstairs.” She said sharply.

“Ms. Abernath is expecting me and I was told to wait up here before I can talk to her.” Delphine explained, “I’m Delphine Price, her new personal typist.”

“That can’t be!” The woman scoffed, “I’m Ms. Abernath’s new typist. I started four days ago.”

“Well there must be some sort of mix-up because I was contacted by Ms. Abernath herself. I secured the job over correspondence and today’s supposed to be my first day.”

“Listen Miss Price, I don’t know what your game is here but I was interviewed and hired just like every, other girl here and I’m not about to shuffle off just because you think this job should be yours.”

“I don’t think the job is mine, I was told the job is mine. If this was an honest mistake then I am happy to move over and take whatever I can get but I will not be talked down to over something that is clearly beyond my control.”

Delphine was congratulating herself on not losing her temper at this presumptuous woman. ‘What is her problem?’ she wondered. If she felt the need to be so competitive over something as trivial as a hiring mix-up then Delphine was obviously wasting her time trying to reason with her.

“Sit down if you wish,” the woman huffed. “Ms. Abernath will be finished soon enough.”

Leanna Abernath emerged from the double-doors of her personal office, followed by two well-suited men with fairly forgettable faces. She shook hands with them at the door Delphine had just come through, seeing them off to the stairwell before returning to find out she had doubled in the possession of personal typists.

“Miss Price? You’re Miss Price?”

“I am Ms. Abernath. I hope I haven’t made a poor first-impression.”

“Oh, no! That’s not the case at all. It’s just that, well…oh dear! It seems there’s been a terrible mix-up with my hiring manager. You see I was not here for the last three days and when I got back this morning I just assumed she was the Delphine Price I had corresponded with four months ago! I do apologize to both of you, I should’ve been more thorough on my part. You see, there wasn’t a mistake in hiring two new typists but only one of you was meant to be my personal typist. And now it seems the man who requested a typist has gone without one for over an hour.”

So it seemed there was an obvious choice here. One of these girls would have to be the typist to a complete stranger and by right, it shouldn’t have been Delphine. Regardless of what the other girl would argue Delphine secured that job fairly and believed that the choice should at least be hers. And admittedly, she would’ve killed to see that smug expression fade into deserved disappointment.

“Ms. Abernath, wouldn’t it be more sensible to keep me on as your typist? I started four days ago so I am more accustomed to your schedule.” The girl pressed.

“You do make a valid point Miss Andrews and you have come highly recommended but so has Miss Price here, and I did offer her the job myself. Since you have been so put out by this predicament Miss Price I think it is only fair that I leave the decision to you. You may take the position of my personal typist or you may take the job on Gutchlag Street. Both offer the same wages and both offer similar work-shifts. What do you think?”

What did she think? She looked to the other girl, Miss Andrews, and could see the panic clear on her face. She could’ve been regretting how she spoke to Delphine and thinking that would impact her position. Delphine didn’t like to punish people simply for being petty but she had to admit; putting this girl on the spot felt like sweet, sweet justice to her. ‘Put her out of her misery already’ she thought to herself, making up her mind. She might regret the decision herself but then again, she might not.

“Well Ms. Abernath, since Miss Andrews has been here longer than I have I think it would be more convenient to let her remain here and I can take the job on Gutchlag Street. If you would be so kind as to write something for me explaining the mix-up then I can leave for Gutchlag Street immediately-I’ve brought along my own typewriter so I needn’t worry about that either.”

“That is very considerate of you Miss Price! I apologize again for this dilemma and I am glad we can resolve this peacefully. Of course I shall write out an explanation and compensate you the tram-fare.”

“That is most kind of you. What is the exact address?”

Ms. Abernath gave Delphine everything she needed on two sheets of parchment paper and a half-shilling for the tram-fare. Having shaken hands with her employer, Delphine left the office. But not before giving Miss Andrews a warning glare. ‘I did you this favor’ Delphine expressed: ’don’t cross me again after this’.

Delphine left the building, the street and found the tram-stop that would lead her on to number twelve Gutchlag Street. She informed the conductor of her lack of direction and he agreed to let her off as close as he could. Delphine was good at some things, even great at certain skills, but the one thing her memory suffered for was sense of direction. Which usually triggered anxiety-induced fidgeting. Her mother used to admonish her for this. Fidgeting was seen as impolite and impoliteness was just unthinkable.

“This is as close as I can get you madam,” the conductor interrupted her drumming nails. “That’ll be half a shilling please.”

Delphine handed over the coin and bid him goodbye, making her way down the beginning of Gutchlag Street. Number eight and nine were tan-bricked houses with dirty windows and overgrown gardens, number ten was a bakery, number eleven an auto-repair garage, number thirteen a curtain-store and seated neatly in between was number twelve. Victson Police station. ‘Marvelous’ Delphine thought with a frown.

Gripping the handle of her typewriter case in both hands, Delphine geared herself and entered the station. Small on the inside with plain furnishings, a scent of mustiness mingling with ink and a timid-looking constable sitting on the other side of the service-desk. He looked up to Delphine with the eyes of a frightened doe, scrambling to find a pen, a piece of paper or something he felt he should’ve been holding.

“H-Hello miss, how may I help you today?” He practically squeaked.

“Pleased to meet you, my name is Delphine Price. Ms. Abernath of Pratt’s Secretarial agency sent me over to fill the need of a new typist.”

“Ah! Of course. You’ll be working for the Detective Sargent; transcribing meetings, typing up case-notes, that sort of thing. If you’ll wait here just a moment I’ll inform him that you’re here.”

Delphine stood where she was, nervously eyeing the wanted posters and laws of public conduct that hung from the walls above the wooden waiting-benches. A police station wasn’t the first place she would’ve chosen-in fact, it was so far from her list of preferences she still had trouble grasping it. A woman was killed on her first night in Victson, she held the body herself and followed the orders of that clear-cut detective. The last thing she wanted was to be anywhere near that crime again. And now not only would she be reminded of what happened, there was a possibility she might just encounter more of its’ kind.

“Sargent, this is Miss Delphine Price, the new typist. She appears to have brought her own typewriter so we won’t have to burden her with our rusty, old one.”

Delphine could've laughed, or gasped-either which wouldn’t have been appropriate exactly, but entirely suitable. This just kept getting worse and worse.

“Detective-Sargent Kingsbury?” She choked, her eyes widening. He mirrored her shock in equal fervor, visibly coming to the same conclusion that she had.

“Miss Price,” he replied. “Isn’t this my lucky day?”

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