I was sitting in my office when the elephone rang.
"Is this Marie Shelley...of Shelley's Past Recovery and Mystery Services?" a confused voice that would have otherwise been mysterious said.
"That depends," I said staring at the door which for weeks had said Sheelley's Post Recorvery and Mysterious Services because the painting company hadn't been willing or able to spell. I had been sitting at my desk flipping through the phone book trying to solve the mystery of who might could fix it.
"Well, is this 421 Spring Street, suite 42B?" the voice said.
"Yes, that I can attest to," I said beginning to think this person had the wrong number and I should try to at least sound as if I had the upper hand.
"This is John, the delivery boy from Wi-Li Chinese, I can't seem to find your office," he said. I could tell by the sound of his feet that he was shuffling in a circle possibly trying to determine where he was.
"Oh, that. What floor are you on?" I got up and walked to the door.
"I'm not sure. They all look the same and I lost count some time ago. Except this one's a different color than the last one."
"What color is it?"
I went to the second floor and got the food myself guiding the delivery boy to the door with stairs behind it.
"A building with color coded floors, how bloody quaint," I mumbled to myself as I reached my office again. I almost tripped over a large orange package laying by the doorway as I opened the door. I sat the food down on the floor and picked it up noticing a biohazard symbol on one side. Intrigued I raised an eyebrow thinking it must have been delivered to the wrong address. Unfortunately I found the label and it was supposed to be here.
I took it and the food in and sat them both on the desk. Apparently the mystery of who in London could actually spell and paint would have to rest. I opened the orange mystery container first and looked inside. There was nothing in it. The door flung open and I saw a camera flash before I could trurn around.
"What are you doing in here, George," I said holding up the container which didn't contain a mystery after all.
"Not getting a funny picture of you, that's for sure."
"I thought maybe you'd call the police or something," he said stepping in.
"You did this. That figures," I put the container on the floor and swept some trash into it. "Why do you all have it in for me?"
"You're a target," he shrugged.
Since I had moved into the building two weeks earlier I had been having a semi-feud with the entire fifth floor--the floor above me--which housed the Bio-Tech company that had occupied this building since it was built. In fact I was pretty sure they were the ones who changed my name on the door.
"We had a bet on how long it would take you to call the police. I won, I said never."
"Well, it's not as if you could but you should know by now that I'm always willing to take on a mystery. Especially when there may be a biohazard involved. Nice try," I said sitting on the couch with my well worked for chinese food.
Later that day I went back to pondering the sign on my door. Staring at it I wondered how anyone could have gotten something so wrong. What is recorvery?
"Re-cor-very. Re-cor-ver-ee," I said to myself before sighing and going back in my office. I had already determined that the order had said Post Recorvery instead of Past Recorvery through a series of calls and inconveniently long periods on hold. For some reason calling painters is always like calling the government. I wonder what they were like when they had to do a whole house.
I turned to the window and looked down on the street below trying to justify opening an agency like this for the millionth time that day.
"People may need someone to recover their past," I had told myself. Plus the name sounds so good. Really it was too much vodka and too many late nights with the sci-fi channel as my only companion. The fact that I decided to base it in London was the result of accidentally mistaking BBC America for the sci-fi channel and leaving it on just long enough for it to influence me.
It is quite possible to travel interdimensionally anyway and I wanted to move. I had yet to have my first client or in fact any client at all but I tried to console myself by insisting it was because I had only been there two weeks.
"Ahem," I heard a rather awkward throat being cleared behind me and turned around. A very nervous looking man in a victorian suit and a handlebar mustache came in bending a velvet hat nervously as he approached.
"Uh, hi, is this Past Recovery and Mystery Services?" he said.
"Yes, I'm Marie Shelley," I said standing and trying not to look as suspicious as I felt.
"I'm Archibald Crane," he said bowing. "And I suppose I'm from the past," he said looking around the office conspicuously.
"Please, sit down," I said beginning to feel as awkward as he looked while simultaneously wondering who was put up to this on behalf of Ingentech upstairs. "What can I do for you?"
"Well, it's my wife, she was mur-well, I shall start at the beginning. She was on holiday to visit her sister in Cornwall in 1897--that's in Sector Seven, I don't know how well you know the area but..."
"Ah, yes, Sector Seven," I said as if I knew what he was talking about.
"Anyway, that was a month ago and she was supposed to return three days ago."
"Ok, well, I'm sure we can figure this out. Where did you say you were from?" I said picking up a pen.
"The past," he said.
"Right..." I said not even pretending to write that down. "And where do you live in the past?"
"London. Well, twenty-one twelve Church St."
"So, you live here? In this building?"
"If this is what the future must do to it then yes, I suppose so," he looked rather critically around the room.
"Hmm," I said noticing his nose wrinkling at the paint on the walls and just the general atmosphere of modernity. I wrote this down with some contempt suddenly thinking of him as just another person. "When you came in, what door did you come in?"
"That one," he said pointing to the obvious.
"When you came in from outside," I said trying not to show the rising annoyance.
"Oh, well I came from the cheese shop next door."
"What cheese shop?"
He showed me to the door across the hall from my conspicuously painted one. I followed him through uncertain of what I would see there. Would I be sucked into some kind of tunnel? Would everything turn purple and swirly? I held my breath as we walked into a--
"Cute little cheese shop!" it was a total reflex on my part--and a little loud.
"Yes, umm. Mister Cook should be around here somewhere."
I walked around the shop hardly noticing if Archibald had left or not. It was the kind of place you only saw in sepia tones or silent films. The walls were lined with little white shelves against little white walls with red mahogany trim near the ceiling and floor and crowding in a little white floor.