The building looks normal. Just big and showy and office-y. Nothing whatsoever to ring alarm bells. I almost wish there was some suspicious 'no entry' signs, or threatening-looking guys in black hanging around with guns stuffed down their trousers. Something - anything - just to show me that I'm not going insane.
Because wouldn't that be just goddamn great.
I enter the foyer through the big revolving doors. It's clean and modern and looks like something out of Star Wars. Sorta.
'Hello, can I help you?' the pretty receptionist asks sunnily. She should be bored and shewing at her fake fingernails. Why isn't she?
I decide I don't trust her.
'Yes, actually. I'm just here to-'
'Oh, of course - Miss Broker! Mr Doleridge told me you'd be coming sometime today. He's currently in a meeting, but he said to send you up to the Pembrooke Room at around 2:30. Does that suit?'
Jesus. This is absolutely and completely not good. Who the hell is Doleridge? I've never even goddamn heard of him. And Pembrooke Room? Any significance in that, or is it just a random room name? And how does this Doleridge guy know I'm here? Sounds like he knew I'd be coming, and all.
What the hell is going on?
The receptionist is looking at me with a big fake smile showing off her too-straight teeth.
'Uh... Yeah, that's just great,' I manage to growl.
'Would you like some coffee while you wait, Miss Broker?'
Jesus. This is going to be a long wait.
I practically leap out of the brown suede armchair that tried to goddamn eat me the moment I sat in it. The receptionist - Barbie smile and all - comes over and says she'll lead me to the Pembrooke room, if I'll just follow her.
What the hell is this place anyway?
We get in the lift and I see it's got about a million goddamn floors. It's a goddamn rabbit warren here. If I get lost I'm so in trouble.
'Here you are, Miss Broker.'
We've stopped outside a plain-looking brown wooden door with a plaque that reads 'Pembrooke Room'. No help there.
The receptionist gives me one last Cheshire-Cat grin before disappearing in a clack of heels and cloud of perfume. I'm glad she's gone. She smells like dead sheep.
I knock, tentatively. Wondering what I'm getting myself into. What a stupid bugger you are, Charlie. Why the hell are you here? Trying to get yourself goddamn killed?
The door opens, and whatever I was expecting, I wasn't expecting this. He's tall and scissor-thin. His legs look like hole-punches. His black pin-stripe suit does nothing to help the picture. His face is creased like the pages of an old book, and he's got a nose you could cut cheese with.
'Good afternoon, Miss Broker,' he says silkily, covering the ground between us in two strides of his hole-punch legs and extending a long-fingered hand. I ignore it. Which makes him smile as if I've just said something vaguely funny. Which irritates me. Urgh. I'm not so tactful when I'm irritated. Not that I'm usually that tactful.
The room's quite small, with just a glass coffee table and three of those goddamn awful suede chairs that eat you soon as look at you. There's a door like the one I just entered on the left wall. A clock. There aren't any windows.
The door closes behind me with a clack. And then a clunk. And I've now got a really very bad feeling about this indeed.
The door to the left opens, and whatever I was expecting, I wasn't expecting this.
It's a normal guy. A completely and utterly normal guy.
Well that sucks.
'Please. Have a seat.' He's too nice. And too normal. He smiles, motioning to a chair, and I see wrinkles around his eyes beneath his small round glasses. He looks like a mole. A well turned-out mole.
'So,' I grunt, doing my best hippopotamus impression. 'What the hell's going on?'
Mr Mole smiles slightly.
Scissor-Guy smiles tightly.
The clock on the wall ticks.