You'd never know from Rebecca's behavior during Joe's visit that there'd been a murder at the agency. Well, Rebecca's a professional, it's true. But also, by the time Joe arrives, she's had at least a day to cope with things.
Let's go back now, to the day of Jason's untimely demise.
Alan stepped off the elevator and paused. Something was amiss. The floor was much too quiet.
He stepped up to the reception desk. Susan was nowhere to be seen. He moved away from the desk and looked up and down the corridor. There was no activity, no sound. No nothing.
"What the hell...?" he muttered.
"Mister Smithee," came a low, cultured voice from... somewhere.
Alan spun around, trying to locate the source of the sound. Suddenly, there was Jeeves. He had this habit of appearing out of nowhere. It was unnerving.
Alan frowned. "Hasn't she found you another story yet?"
"No, indeed, sir," Jeeves replied. "Had such an event occurred, you should not be seeing me standing here at this moment."
"No," Alan said, trying very hard not to roll his eyes. "I suppose not."
"And, might I add, sir, that I am finding it most agreeable working in these environs. Most of the staff here are quite pleasant indeed."
The man's ability to casually toss an insult without breaking his well-mannered facade was utterly astonishing.
"Where's Susan?" Alan asked, choosing to ignore the jibe.
"Oh, Miss Foreman has retired to the restroom for a moment. She shall return imminently."
Imminently. Where did she get this guy?
"Fine. Is Rebecca in?"
"Yes, sir. As a matter of fact, I would venture to guess that she is rather anxious to see you."
Alan frowned. "Really?" Rebecca was rarely anxious about anything. At least outwardly.
Alan moved towards Rebecca's office, glancing warily at Jeeves as he did so, and rapped on her door.
"Come," came a muffled voice from inside the office.
Alan opened the door and stepped inside. Rebecca was not at her desk. He glanced around the office, to see where she could possibly--
Oh, boy, he thought. This is turning out to be one weird-ass day.
Rebecca was standing at the office window, looking out at the cityscape. Alan had never seen her so much as glance at that window in all the time he'd known her. As a matter of fact, he'd never seen her anywhere in this office other than behind her desk or in front of the coffee maker.
He stood there for a moment, unsure what to do or say. Finally, he closed the door, hoping the sound would rouse her from her reverie.
She turned away from the window at last and looked at him. Alan nearly gasped. She was pale as an oyster, except for her eyes, which were rimmed with red.
She sighed. "Sit down, Alan."
Alan took the seat in front of her desk as she moved to take her usual place behind it.
"What is it, Bec?" he asked. "What's wrong?"
She took a ragged breath. "Jason's dead."
Alan blinked. Then he shook his head. "Jason? Jason Fallow? The goth guy?"
Rebecca eyed him sternly. "You know very well who he is. You've both worked here for years."
"Yeah, but I try to avoid him as much as possible. Guy gives me the creeps."
Rebecca put her elbows on the desk and her forehead in her hands. "I don't need your flippancy right now."
Alan waved his hands in front of him. "Okay, okay. Sorry. I'm just tryin' to take it all in, here." He paused a moment, to try and clear his thoughts.
"Are you sure he's dead?" he asked at length. "He could be asleep, you know. The whole goth thing, I mean. It can be hard to tell."
"Alan!" Rebecca's cheeks were now joining her eyes in the red zone.
Alan put up his hands. "Sorry. I can't help it. It's my defense mechanism."
"Well, try, will you? A man is dead."
Alan nodded and slumped back in his seat.
"So what happened?"
Rebecca's eyes met his. "Someone planted an axe in the back of his head."
Alan winced. "Jesus! I thought you were talkin' about a stroke or something. Someone killed him? With an axe? That's grizzly, even for this place."
Rebecca just sighed again. Alan's head was beginning to spin. It was not so much the words describing Jason's death as it was Rebecca's uncharacteristically torpid state that was driving home to him the reality of the situation.
"Um... when?" he asked, his tone softening somewhat. "When did this happen?"
"About a half an hour ago." Rebecca's cheeks were fading back to their former pallid state. "I... I was there. I walked into his office."
Alan put a hand to his head. "Oh, my God, Bec. What were...? You saw...? Oh, God."
Rebecca seemed nearly in a dream state now. "I was taking three characters down to his office... No, actually, it was Judith's office..."
"Judith's? What the hell was he doing in Judith's office?"
Rebecca rubbed her right eye. "I asked him to fill in for her."
Alan snorted. "Goth guy? Filling in for Chick-Lit Gal? That's rich, Bec. That's really rich."
Rebecca shook her head. "Not my best executive decision." She paused. "Obviously."
"So now what?"
"Uh... I've called Jake back in. He's on his way back from Margate as we speak. He dealt with the... uh... General Villainous situation."
Alan could see that Rebecca was trying hard to focus. The fog hadn't completely lifted, though.
"So Jake's going to head up the investigation?"
"What about the police?"
Rebecca cringed. "Alan, let's not complicate matters, here. We don't even know the name of this city we're in. And we won't until someone writes it into a chapter. We don't even know what floor of this building we're on. We don't even know the name of the building. It's a non-floor of a non-building in a non-city. You think we have a police force?" She sat back in her chair. "You're lucky to have a last name, my friend. Just think about that."
Alan put his hand on his chin. "Yeah. As-needed. I know. It just seems... wrong. We're supposed to be providing all these great services for the characters..."
Rebecca shook her head. "Let's not get into that right now, okay? We have more important things to think about."
"Yeah. Like who those characters were that you were taking down to the Chick-Lit office."
Rebecca cleared her throat and blinked hard, as if to reorient herself. "Well, the first one was Bella Pleasance--"
"Right, then. Case closed."
Alan leaned forward again. "Bec... If you have Bella Pleasance and a dead body in the same room, the math is pretty frickin' simple."
"You're jumping to conclusions."
"Jump? All I had to do was step an inch to the right."
"Okay. I know. I know. She's a head case."
"Bec, the woman is a whack job. What the hell was she doing down in Chick-Lit?"
"She and the other two were there for a workshop."
Alan shook his head. "Oh, that's good. That's really good. Bella Pleasance taking a workshop from Chick-Lit. Geez, Why don't we just bring that General Villainous guy in and register him for a stuffed toy workshop?"
"Alan, calm down. Look, they haven't done anything with Bella's story for nearly five months. She's probably looking for other options. And you'd be a head case, too, if your writers kept jumping you around from present to past to farther past to far future. I thought I'd give the woman a chance."
Alan was about to make another pointed retort, but a knock at the door derailed his train of thought.
"Come," Rebecca said wearily.
The door opened to reveal Jeeves.
"I wished to advise you, madam, that Miss Foreman has returned from her rather extended field trip to the lavatory and is now possessed of significantly drier eyes and calmer demeanour. Coincidentally, Mister Hartigan has returned from the field and is ascending in the lift as we speak."
"You mean as you speak," Alan muttered.
"Enough, Alan," Rebecca said. "Thank you, Jeeves."
"My pleasure, madam."
The door closed again.
"All right," Rebecca said, rising from her chair. "I guess we can get this investigation started."
Alan closed his eyes. It had already been a long day. Now it was just going to get longer, and longer, and longer, and...