Darken slumped against the counter. "I'm bored. Is this what you go through everyday, Rose? You're always staying back sitting alone here while everyone goes about their life."
"I have my phone for company," said Rose, tapping something away on his phone.
"What, texting pals?" Empress leaned over while slurping on a smoothie.
"No, the website," huffed Rose. "If I don't update it regularly, we're not going to get plenty of patrons."
"Computer work should be left to Slayer, and yet you volunteered to be the website's manager," Empress huffed.
"Everyone agrees that I'm more sociable than Slayer, right?" Rose mumbled.
"There's no need to always make sure the website's picture perfect every day," said Darken. "At least, that's what you're always doing. On your phone."
"My phone is part of my life, you know," said Rose. "I manage the website, I run through all the calls from our clients, because that's my number that people call for help on the website here, and I also have - texting pals . . . say, Imogan, how did you know I have texting pals?" He frowned at Empress.
"From the times that you would grin like a doofus while looking at your phone when we're in school," said Empress. "Also, code names at work, code names at work."
Darken leaned on one arm, looking sleepy. "Sierra, in one hour, if no client walks in, can I get a part-time job here? I'm not a hacker, and there's nothing to investigate right now."
"Want me to hire you now?" Sierra asked.
"I'll waste another hour first," said Darken.
"Darken, you're just as sleepy as a dog is when he's got no owner to play with," teased Rose.
"Shut up," Darken growled back.
At that moment, the entrance door bell dinged.
"I can't tell if that's a client or if it's just someone looking for coffee," said Darken.
Sierra turned to welcome a young man with tattoos and piercings that were worthy of wide-eyed stares from Darken, Empress, and Rose. He appeared to be nervous, though.
"Welcome, sir, what would you like to have?" asked Sierra.
"Um, is this the Swallowtail Detective Agency?" he asked tentatively. "You know - this place - a cafe and a place for detectives at the same time."
"That's us," said Darken. "Got a problem? By the way, does getting a tattoo hurt so bad?"
"Er - sorta, but - wait, you guys are Swallowtail?" asked the client. He seemed bemused.
"Yep, we are," said Empress. "So, you got a case?"
"Wait, hold up, I'm actually looking for a guy called Fire, or North?" said the young man.
"Sorry, they're on another case right now," said Darken. "We're free, though."
The young man looked dejected. "Oh . . . then I'll wait till that case is solved . . ."
"Why don't you hire them?" asked Rose, returning to tapping on his phone, not before nodding towards Darken and Empress. "These two guys are free. They should be able to help you out."
"H-how? What about the other two, then? They're your aces, right? I . . . wanted expert people to do this case."
"Oh, I see," said Darken, seemingly amused and annoyed at the same time.
"But," said Rose absently. "Did you know, compared to those two, Darken and Empress have some points that North and Fire don't have? Like, information gathering, or being a martial arts expert. You could literally trust them with your life."
"Wait, we're both a team, and Darken's working with Slayer," said Empress, frowning at Rose.
"Not always," Darken butted in.
"But I've got work here, my hands are full," Rose huffed. "By the way, fella, if your case isn't something that these two don't approve, we won't take it."
"Er - you're the boss?" asked the client.
"Nope. The newest employee here," said Rose.
"I hope you actually be more useful, too, Rose, since you're the most inexperienced," said Empress.
"Which is impossible, because you don't even pick up that many cases," said Darken. "Ever the behind-the-scenes kind of person."
"Thanks, that was an insult, wasn't it?" Rose mumbled sarcastically.
Finally, the young man decided to have a talk with Darken and Empress, and at his insistence, they stepped out of the cafe to head outside to talk.
"You sure you're going to skip that case?" asked Sierra, returning behind the counter to polish more glasses.
"Man, at this rate, if I joined them, I'll never finish updating this friggin' thing. You know, the last time I updated the website was actually two months ago, thanks to a case that needed all six of us running on our heels to find a serial killer with Bennett. Your dad."
Then his phone ran, and he nearly dropped it into a half-drunk cup of coffee. At least he managed to catch hold of it, cursing, before he poked the answer button on the screen. "Sorry, Swallowtail's detectives are all absent from work today, please return a call tomorrow, thank you. Beep."
His electronic mimic of a monotonous robot made Sierra chuckle.
"Make the habit of checking your phone number to see who's calling, will you?" a familiar voice laughed. "Sorry, Rose, were you busy?"
"Oh, Fire. That you?" Rose mumbled, irritation in his voice.
"So you were busy," Fire sighed.
"Yeah. Sort of. With the website. Which you forgot to update last month and this month, too. What's up?"
"Do me a favor. You think you can take care of my sister tonight? I'm staying over at my client's place so I can question her further about her friend's disappearance."
"Huh? Me? Why me? How am I supposed to finish updating the website at this rate?"
"Not now. Tonight. She won't be hanging out with us. Even now, she's already gone," Fire mumbled.
"It's the usual reason. She got bored."
Rose scrunched his face up in a scowl. "That kid needs to learn that work needs to be finished before play. What, she's not with you anymore?"
"What about North and Slayer? Can't they look after her? They're free, aren't they?"
"Those two? Yeah, they're going to be freeloading with me at the client's house. I need you to look after her. God knows what might happen if she's alone. She's safe alone during the day, but call her if she's not at my apartment before seven o' clock."
"Uh, - no, not, that kind of free, but whatever, they're gonna be busy with you, anyway."
"Yeah, that," said Fire. "Say, Rose, what would you do if you, a kidnapper, kidnaps a girl, and two months later learns that your victim's best friend is still determined to look for her?"
"Me? I'll be shocked. I mean, two months is a long time. Any detective would get tired of the case and throw it into the cold case box, if no clues show up," said Rose. "No, wait, I think that part depends on whether they're determined to do it properly or not. Then I'll keep an eye on the victim's friend, scout her out to make sure she makes no dangerous moves, and as in dangerous, I mean, dangerous to me. If worse comes to worst, I might plan on silencing her, if I have to. Oh, and my physical strength also has to be good enough to pin her down, because if that victim's friend just happens to be a guy reincarnated as a girl like Empress, I might end up with more than a couple of broken ribs. You, though, would have thought of more possibilities than that, though. What, is that kidnapper a smart guy?"
"Correct, he is, and he's just become a pain. You're right, though. The kidnapper is definitely watching us, trying to go a step further."
"Look, I'm not supposed to read minds like you, Fire, but to track people, I don't see the need of asking for my opinion about your case."
"Yeah, that's true," said Fire. "So, then, think you can look after History?"
"Yeah, sure. I'll be done with the website by evening," said Rose. "Gimme a raise, too, for clearing up your horrible grammar from the website as well."
"Right, there goes my lunch money, too. Thanks for the help, Rose - oh, yeah, where are Darken and Empress?"
"Taking another client's job. They're chatting about it right now. A guy with tattoos and piercings. Didn't get his name, though. That okay?"
"Yeah, it's fine," said Fire. "By the way, apologize to Empress, she gets mad over things like if someone says she's a guy."
"She won't even hear of it," Rose mumbled.
A bag smacked him from behind as he hung up.
"I heard what you said, actually," said Empress. "If Fire told you to apologize to me, you better hurry with the apology. But since I'm in a rush right now, I'll be off. Later, Flower Pot!"
She ran off out of the cafe.
"I'm beginning to regret my own pseudonym," Rose mumbled. "Shoulda picked a more manly one."
"There's no way to change it anymore, you're stuck being called 'Rose' for as long as you stay here," Sierra laughed.