The city was said to be a wondrous place where a man could make or break his fortune in the blink of an eye, or where time ceased to exist as those who ducked in and out of work did so at the most obscure of times.
But to me, it was just another place.
I’d never been to the city near my hometown before, but of course, I’d passed through it many a time when my business was elsewhere; it was the only route in- and out- of the small town that I lived in. Before I moved to my current place of living with Peter, I grew up on a little farm a few miles from the city. It wasn’t much, but it was a lovely little piece of paradise and it cemented my dislike of busy places far into my adulthood. One could say that the museum was far a busy place for a person of my taste, but the people would not stay long; they’d walk on by as soon as they got tired of the exhibits. And, of course, there were new people every day. The city, however, kept its tin soldiers in their boxes and, now matter how far they strayed, the city would always call them back. I could never do that; even my old farm had lost its appeal in my changing mind.
I looked up at the chrome and steel towers that seemed to be pushing into the pallid sky. ‘Modern’ was the first word to come to mind, ‘cold’ was the second.
Who would want to work in such a place? I wondered. They are so uninviting.
“Mike, you shouldn’t have come along…” I muttered, watching him out of the corner of my eyes.
“Just call me your backup,” he winked.
The plaza we were standing on was made of a simple concrete, hashed into diamond-shapes and lead up straight to the revolving entrance doors of the two towers. There was nowhere to hide if we got caught, and no doubt we would be observed by many curious eyes up at the office windows, but that was the only way in. We were just going to have to keep our fingers crossed and hope that we wouldn’t be asked too many questions.
We pushed through the doors into the nearest tower’s foyer. There didn’t seem to be anybody about, except the receptionist, who was a young man with his feet up on the desk, reading a newspaper and dressed in trainers and gym wear. Engrossed in the newspaper, he didn’t notice us. Walking onwards, Mike and I surveyed the building. Like its exterior, it was very modern, with silver lifts and the type of steel floor that gave a satisfying ‘clunk’ when we stepped with force onto it. The front desk that we could see was of a fine light-grain wood and the walls a plain, economic white.
Ignoring the décor (as little as it was) I led Mike in turning briskly to the right of the foyer and down the corridor that was then ahead of us. On each side was the occasional door; white-washing over the transactions that occurred inside.
I turned the next corner, only to find myself confronted by a choice of direction. One corridor veered left, the other turned to the right. I grinned cheekily at Mike.
“Would it be cruel of me to order you to go that way, as I go this?”
“It wouldn’t be recommended,” Mike gave me a look as he spoke.
“But it would be quicker to search the whole of the building for information if we split up-”
“Do you think we’ll be able to get through the whole of this building (and then the next) in the little time we have, even if we are undisturbed?”
I shrugged. “It’s worth a try.”
“Okay, but don’t come running to me-”
“I won’t need to, don’t you worry.”
Mike turned to head down the right passage, but then quickly spun back to look at me.
“Bella, be careful, okay.”
“I will…” I sighed, doubting whether I would be. At least I was doing something now; this murder was hanging over me like the dark clouds from earlier or a hangman’s noose. I just wanted to be rid of it.