“How did you know I was standing here?” Deel hears himself asking.
“It’s my job,” Marjory states and makes room for him in the doorway. “Come in. Have a seat.”
Deel follows the order, stepping into the icebox of an office. The woman from the Ministry watches him closely as he takes the seat next to hers. He smiles an apology.
“Janet James, Samuel Deel,” Marjory says as introduction. “I suspect Samuel has taken his foot out of his mouth by now.” She steps behind her desk and lowers herself into her chair.
Has her seat always been so much higher than the others?
Janet smirks. “I’m sure he’ll be stuffing it back in there soon enough.”
“Indeed,” Marjory agrees.
Deel looks worried. His eyes dart between the women, but he’s incapable of making contact with theirs.
“Did Franks spoil the surprise?” Marjory asks. “He’s good at that.”
Deel realizes the question is directed at him.
“Uh, you mean about, uh,” he tries. He glances toward Janet.
“See?” Janet asks. “That didn’t take long at all.”
“You know,” Marjory asks, “that Janet is from the Ministry of Chronology, yes?”
Deel nods slowly.
“Do you know why she is here?”
Deel is wary. He suspects a trap somewhere near by.
“She, um, I… Investigation… Rose…”
“Rose Somethingorother, yes,” Marjory confirms. “And why is there an investigation?”
Deel doesn’t want to incriminate himself.
After a pause, Janet chimes in.
“Are you aware that this is the first death of a suspect on record?” She asks. “Are you aware that you, Mr. Deel, are the first killer we’ve had?”
Deel is stunned, his eyes wide and mouth dry. His jaw goes slack. No words are possible.
“He did not know that,” Marjory informed the Ministry agent. “Most likely because it isn’t true.”
Janet casts a flash of annoyance. How dare this woman ruin her game.
“It’s… Wait, I’m confused?” Every word out of Deel’s mouth is a question.
“I’m sure you’re used to it by now,” Janet derides. “But she is as correct as she is incorrect. We have no killers on record.”
“On record is not-” Marjory begins.
“The record is the only thing that matters,” Janet says. “How you can operate any other way is beyond me.”
“How-” Deel tries.
“Stow it,” Marjory commands, turning back to the Janet. “Are you trying to make his head explode? Just spit out your damned plan and let’s be done here.”
Janet does not appreciate being spoken to in such a manner. Her eyes are wielding daggers, and they’re aimed at Marjory.
“Very well,” Janet says in clipped tones. “There is procedure to follow here. We must correct our – your – mistake. You and I will be sweeping this under a rug, so to speak.”
Deel sees a glimmer of hope. His jaw closes, but he dares not speak.
“Nothing to say?” Janet mocks him. “A little grovelling is usually in order.”
“Deel,” Marjory warns, and he sits back, a chided puppy.
“Rose Somethingorother is integral to our investigations. You weren’t just bringing her to justice for petty theft. You were bringing her to me.”
“She’s one percent?” Deel manages before the women could shut him down again.
“Samuel,” Marjory chimes, “Rose is – was – point two.”
Deel’s head is suddenly a thousand pounds of anxiety. “Oh.”