Rebecca Hargreaves stepped off the elevator and moved towards the reception desk.
"Morning Susan," she said, hiking her purse strap up on her shoulder a bit.
"Morning, Rebecca" Susan replied with a sunny smile. "How are you today?"
Susan's cheerful demeanour and adorable dimples could brighten the dreariest of mornings. Her long, dark brown hair framed her round face perfectly, and her affinity for light-colored clothing only cemented her in Rebecca's mind as the office cherub.
"I'm doing well, thanks," Rebecca replied. "How about yourself?"
"Great, thanks," Susan said, beaming. Her teeth were nearly perfect, and her green eyes gleamed with an innocent sauciness that nearly made Rebecca want to switch teams.
A movement to her right caught Rebecca's attention. Jeeves was moving towards her, cup of coffee in hand.
"Good morning, madam," Jeeves said. "I trust you are well this morning."
"Indeed I am, Jeeves," she said, mentally slapping herself for slipping into his speech pattern. "Thank you for asking."
Jeeves held out the cup and saucer. "Your coffee, madam."
Rebecca took the steaming beverage. "Thank you." She examined the porcelain dishes that held her brew and glanced back at Jeeves. "Are these new?"
"No, madam. I found them whilst cleaning out the storage room at the end of the northeast corridor. I thought they might add a touch of elegance to an otherwise mundane beverage."
Rebecca raised her eyebrows. "Nice. I didn't even know we had these."
"It is well within the realm of possiblity, madam, that these particular pieces of crockery were used by the previous occupants of this floor and were simply forgotten when they vacated the premises."
Good God, he can be verbose. Kind of mesmerising, though.
Rebecca nodded. "You're right. That's quite possible."
"Indeed, madam." Jeeves nodded deeply.
Rebecca took a sip. The coffee was spectacular.
"Mmmmm.... This is delicious, Jeeves."
"Thank you, madam. I took the liberty of purchasing from the greengrocers down the block a blend of which I'm particularly fond. I thought it might be an improvement over the industrial-strength drain cleaner you've heretofore been consuming."
Rebecca nearly swallowed the wrong way. "Yes," she said, coughing and patting her chest. "Big improvement."
Jeeves's biting and observant wit had come out of nowhere, deftly camouflaged by his gentle tone and immense vocabulary. He would definitely take some getting used to.
"Mister Smithee has preceded you, madam," Jeeves said. "He awaits you in your office."
"Thank you, Jeeves." Rebecca nodded and moved past him, towards her office.
Alan was sitting on her couch, slouched, arm draped across the back, legs crossed. She couldn't figure out how his suits always managed to look so good. He was constantly draping himself over whatever furniture he occupied.
Today, he was wearing his dark blue with a white shirt and bright yellow tie. His sandy hair was cut short, and his round, boyish face was shaven clean as an operating room. Rebecca figured that was why he always wore suits. To make him look a bit older.
"What's with the butler?" Alan asked, using his thumb to point towards the reception area.
"That's Jeeves," she replied. "He was a one-shot in Joe and Davy's world. I'm putting him to work here until I can find something else for him."
Alan grunted. "I hope you find something soon. He's a pompous old geezer."
Rebecca frowned at him. "He's accustomed to serving the upper crust, Alan. And he's very efficient. I like him."
Alan shrugged. "Whatever floats your boat, Bec."
"As I've told you countless times, I'm female. I don't have a boat to float."
Alan made a sound something like the mutant offspring of a gargle and a grunt. "You're so literal."
Rebecca hung up her jacket and went to her desk. "What's up?" she asked.
Alan picked up the file folder that sat on the couch beside him. "Burt handed me these when I got in this morning." He stood and stepped over to Rebecca's desk.
"The first one," he said, plunking the folder on her desk and sitting down in the chair across from her, "is a comment posted on the Agency's own storyspace."
Rebecca opened the folder and stared down at the first sheet of paper. After a moment she looked up at Alan, frowning deeply.
"This is impossible," she said.
Alan shrugged and raised his eyebrows. "Burt's pretty thorough. It looks like this actually happened."
"A character hijacked an author's account and posted a comment on our storyspace?"
"Yep. And look who it is."
Rebecca looked at the page again, then put a hand to her head. "Oh, no." She looked up again. "The Monster-Under-the-Bed?"
Rebecca sighed. "Why do authors muck around with childhood fears like that. They know how dangerous it is."
"I don't know. But it gets better. Look at the second one."
Rebecca flipped the page and examined the second sheet. Her breathing grew ragged. "How is this...?" She looked at him, her mouth agape. "How does a character create his own account?"
Alan sat forward. "There are computers in some of the stories, you know."
Rebecca sat back. "Yes, I know, but..." She ran a hand through her hair. "Honestly, Alan, none of us ever expected that something like this could happen."
She sat forward again and looked at the page. She slapped her hand across it and snorted. "Joe. Of course it would be Joe. Only Joe would have the nerve, the utter chutzpah, to do something like this. Posting poetry into his own story. Starting a new story of his own. It's crazy."
"The guy's a trailblazer."
"Trailblazer? He's a menace! He's out of control."
"Can you blame him? The authors haven't exactly been treating him well."
"Well, he could have come to us, couldn't he?"
"Yeah, I suppose..."
"But he didn't. No. He had to start messing around with the system. This has to stop, Alan. I want Joe brought in. I need to talk with him."
"I'll see what I can do."
"Good." Rebecca looked down at the folder again and flipped the page. She stared at it for a moment, a puzzled look on her face. "What's this?"
"It's a résumé."
"What, just sitting there, on our storyspace?"
Rebecca frowned and studied the sheet again. "Sir Edward Nigel Blackthorne: Private Investigator to the Royal House of Windsor. Never heard of the guy."
"Well, where'd he come from?"
"I don't know. Unless there's some Mary Poppins fan fiction out there that we've missed..."
Rebecca laughed. "Mary Poppins fan fiction? Can you imagine, someone writing Mary Poppins fan fiction?"
"Well, no, actually..."
But Rebecca was already gone. She leaned back in her chair, put her head back, and started laughing hysterically. Alan sat back in his chair, folded his hands in his lap, and waited for her to return.
"Oh, God," Rebecca said, panting between laughs. "That's the funniest thing I've ever heard. Mary Poppins fan fiction. Oh, Dear God..." And she resumed her hysterical laughter.
Fortunately for Alan, Rebecca had a pleasant laugh.
A few minutes later, Rebecca sat forward, removed her glasses, reached for a tissue, and wiped the tears from her face.
"You okay now?" Alan asked.
Rebecca nodded. "Yes. I think so."
The office door opened abruptly. Jeeves poked his face into the room.
"Is everything all right, madam?" he asked, a note of concern in his voice.
Rebecca waved the notion away. "Yes, yes, Jeeves. I'm fine. I was just laughing at something Alan said."
"Oh, thank goodness, madam," Jeeves replied. "I must say I feared for your safety. I thought perhaps you and Mister Smithee were entertaining a wounded hyena."
Rebecca glared at him. "I'm fine."
"Very good, madam." Jeeves pulled his face out of the room and closed the door.
Alan gestured back towards the door with his head. "Pompous..."
Rebecca snorted. "Yeah. I guess." She cleared her throat. "So, where are we here? Can we get this Blackthorne guy in here?"
Alan sighed. "Again, I'll see what I can do."
"Okay. And we need to fix up the author guidance for our storyspace. We don't want any more dangling résumés appearing. It breaks continuity."
Rebecca flipped back through the pages. "So, you're going to try and get Joe in here..."
"Oh, and let's set up a meeting with Burt. We have to see what we can do about this Monster-Under-the-Bed thing."
Rebecca closed the file and handed it back to Alan. "Keep me apprised," she said.
"Okay, Bec." Alan stood and headed for the door. It opened before he got there, and Jeeves appeared out of nowhere to dramatically gesture him out.
"More coffee, madam?" Jeeves asked Rebecca.
"That would be fabulous, Jeeves. Thank you."
"I shall return anon, madam."
The door closed again, and Rebecca was free to remove her glasses again and plunk her head onto the desk. She breathed into the green ink blotter and placed her hands on either side of her head.
It was only nine-thirty.