“It would take some effort, almost like learning magic all over again, and even so, there would still be hints if you knew where to look.”
“I guess if you didn’t recognize the style, it can’t be someone who works here.”
“I don’t work closely enough with everyone in the company to recognize each person on sight. But I am working on a process to compare the style against what we have on record. It’ll just take time.”
“It sounds like we’ve got the makings of a plan,” I said with a mock salute. “Now I’d better get back to my office and get things as settled as possible before the boss sends someone to fill in.”
But I realized as soon as I got upstairs that my temporary replacement was already there. Kim, the overly ambitious verifier I’d met when I first joined the company, the one who had made no effort to hide the fact that she wanted the job I’d been given, was sitting at my desk like she owned it.
It looked like I’d better solve this case quickly or I might find myself backstabbed out of a job.
Kim gave me a smug smile. “I thought it would be easier for me to pick up your tasks if I worked from your office. You don’t mind, do you? I assumed you’d be officing with your little task force, or whatever it is that you’ll be doing.”
“We hadn’t really talked about moving my office,” I said, trying to catch up with the situation. There was some sense to her working in this general office suite, since she would be handling my clerical tasks and would need easy access to Merlin and Trix. But did she have to sit at my desk to do it?
“Well, it wouldn’t be moved permanently, but I have to work somewhere, don’t I?” This was more chipper than I’d ever seen Kim in the short time we’d worked together. She didn’t really do cheerful. She was aggressive, focused, and determined, but never chipper. That made me nervous and suspicious, but there wasn’t much I could say, given that all of her arguments made total sense, in a way.
“I guess I could take my computer and some of my things down to R and D,” I said.
“I probably need your computer. I don’t have one of my own, and don’t a lot of the appointment requests come through your e-mail?”
That was one step too far. My desk I could take or leave, but I didn’t want her having access to my e-mail. If she took my computer and e-mail account, she’d be one step away from becoming the office version of Single White Female and stealing my entire life. “I’m sure we can set you up with a computer, and I’ll forward you any e-mails that are pertinent to your duties.” I mentally scored a point for myself. I thought I’d handled that situation rather professionally.
She glared at me, but it would have been unreasonable for her to insist on taking my computer, so there wasn’t much she could say. “I put all of your other things together here, so I wouldn’t get them mixed up with my stuff,” she said. My desk calendar, planner, and coffee mug had all been shoved to one corner of my desk. She already had a potted plant and a few photos set up on the bookcase. I got the feeling that the paint color would be different the next time I dropped by.
“Oh, thanks,” I said halfheartedly. “Let me get those out of your way.” I disconnected my laptop from the network and closed it, then put the rest of my things in my tote bag, grabbed my coat, and hauled everything out of the office. “I’ll probably be working out of Owen’s lab for the time being,” I told Trix as I passed her desk.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” she said. “She didn’t waste much time, did she? I can’t believe you’re letting her kick you out of your own office.”
“Who would you rather share an office with, Kim or Owen?”
“You’ve got a point there.”
The intercom on Trix’s desk buzzed, and Kim’s voice said, “I need you to get IT to bring me a computer right away, and I’d like some coffee.”
Trix rolled her eyes. “Her majesty calls. She’s lucky she’s immune to magic, or I’d be tempted to put a good curse on her.”
As I lugged my belongings down to R&D, I reflected that what I really needed was a fairy godmother for work. True, my love life wasn’t always spectacularly successful, but I didn’t necessarily have the skills, experience, or raw material to be a love goddess. When it came to work, though, you’d think I’d know how to handle myself. I’d started more or less running a business when I was still a teenager, I had a business degree, and I’d survived in the New York City business world for more than a year, but I still felt out of my element when office politics came into play.