I stared at the door. A piece of cardboard had been taped over the glass, covering my name and profession, which was probably for the best. But what surprised me is that the place hadn’t been rented out to some other business.
I tried my key, and it worked. Another surprise. I had skipped out without paying the last month’s rent, so I fully expected both a seizure of property and a changing of the locks by building management.
I flicked the lights on, and the old fluorescents took time to flicker back to life, as if unsure of how they were supposed to do that. Jen’s desk was still there, covered in a fine patina of dust that I tried not to stir up. I passed through into my office, my soles echoing strangely on the floor. I hung my hat on the rack, along with my coat. The feel of the place was entirely different, now. Colder, lifeless, exactly the spirit I left it in.
I pulled up the blind, looking out at the darkness, but here my name was still on the window: “Matt Allen Investigations.”
“It’s about time,” the breathy, seductive voice made me jump out of my skin. Only one person could do that to me.
“Hey, Nikki.” I didn’t turn to look at her.
“I think I deserve much more than that, Matthew.”
“If you say so.”
“What happened to you? You were able to elude even my resources.”
“I much prefer your usual demeanor to this taciturn version.”
I shrugged again.
A slight prickling of neck hair was all the warning I had before she spun me around, traversing the distance from my door to the window without the clack of a single heel.
Cold hands held my head, forcing my eyes to meet hers. I stared into those ancient blue depths. I wanted to lose myself in them, but I wasn’t feeling it.
She looked into my eyes, then flinched back. “What darkness has moved into your soul?”
I looked away, not wanting her to see any more. “Life,” I said.