Thursday, 8 December 2011


The door to Playfair's office opened slowly as Constable Wright leaned heavily on it, needing his whole weight to push it open.  The limiter on the top of the door, the triangular armature that on normal doors slowed down the closing to prevent them from slamming, was configured to slow down the opening of the door because Inspector Playfair tended to race through the office and slam anything (and anyone) in his way until it got out of his way.  When the door was this hard to open he had to go through it at what other people considered a normal rate.
Miss Girard watched, a little puzzled, but understanding now why she'd thought this door was locked when she'd been exploring the police station the previous week.  Beyond the door was a medium-sized room with three desks and two more doors.  Deadneck and Janet were sitting at desks, both typing and the third desk had a little nameplate for someone called 'Calamity' and a large bowl of water.  Neither of the other doors were open; one was labelled 'Playfair' and the other 'Flava'.  Both Deadneck and Janet were staring at her wide-eyed and pale.  Janet lifted a pale hand to her lips and looked as though she might throw up.
"Miss Girard," said Constable Wright waving a hand in her direction. "This is Janet," he pointed at the ill-looking woman, "and this is Deadneck.  They're Inspector Playfair's secretaries; they look after any paperwork that survives him, handle his expenses, phone-calls, and try to intercept people like you before they can get to him.  His office is through there," and he pointed at the door labelled 'Playfair.'
"Deadneck?" said Miss Girard as politely as astonishment would allow.
"Yes," said Constable Wright, and Deadneck raised a hand a little way, almost shyly, to indicate that she was the person with that name.  Janet burped, her mouth still hidden behind her hand, her eyes still wide with dread.
"I'm here to–" said Miss Girard and stopped abruptly as Janet turned a deep green colour.
"Commit Feng Shui!" she gasped, and ran for the door, pulling it open with an herculean effort.
"Is she alright?" asked Miss Girard peering after her through the rapidly closing doorway.
"Probably," said Constable Wright, who hadn't a clue.  "Might be bird flu."
"Bird flu?"
"Miss Flava says the secretaries are like canaries.  Dunno what she means myself."
"Twit twit, tweet," said Deadneck without looking up from her typewriter.  Miss Girard suddenly realised that there was no computer equipment in the office; the most modern looking thing was an electric fan.
"The layout's all wrong," she said, looking around, letting her professional expertise come to the fore.  "Look, it's obvious that so much of the energy in this room will be obstructed with the desks like this, they should be better spaced out and back against the walls so that people can look into the room from where they're sat.  That plant should be over in this corner, nearer to the light so that it can lend it growth, and life-giving green as the light comes in.  We need curtains, not blinds, and a token to shield the room from the eye of the Dragon of Disturbance."
"Calamity?" asked Constable Wright, screwing his face up as he tried to follow what she was saying.
"Isn't Calamity another secretary?  She has a desk here."
"Calamity's a dog, miss," said Constable Wright smiling now that he knew the answers.  "A Rottweiler."
"Dogs don't need desks!"
"Are you going to be the one to tell her, then?"
Miss Girard fell silent as she considered how one went about telling a Rottweiler called Calamity that they weren't allowed a desk any more and decided that it was outside the realm of her experience.
"I'll leave you to get on with it, then, Miss," said Constable Wright.  "Deadneck here'll keep an eye on you.  Don't get too... floral, though."

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