In the morning, no Harriet, just a note on the kitchen counter: OJ in fridge. Make sure door locks when you let yourself out. No accompanying key. Clearly once I left, I wasn’t invited to come back. I sighed.
The phone on the table beside the door in the entry rang as I exited. Maybe it was Harriet. If so, she could talk to her answering machine. I stepped through and let the door click shut behind me.
And remembered as it did so that I’d left my jacket on the back of the couch.
I set my bag and box luggage ensemble on the stoop and turned to try the handle. I could hear the phone still ringing inside. Then the answering machine clicking on. You’ve reached blah, blah, blah. I checked on top of the lintel, beneath the mat, behind the planter for a spare key. You’d be surprised how many people were stupid that way and Harriet had had five years without me checking up on her.
But she knew better, apparently.
A male voice on the phone. “Harriet? Are you there? Pick up if you’re there, Harriet.”
What was that accent? I couldn’t place it. A boyfriend? Ex? Harriet and I had managed to piss each other off before we got to discussing that aspect of our lives.
“I need it back, Harriet. Call me.”
It? But that was my driver pulling up in a gleaming black town car. I tucked the question away and let him open the door me, accepting my bag and box as gracefully as though they were a matching set of Vuitton luggage.
The Consortium building was one of those glass-sided buildings that make downtown Seattle so beautiful, glimmering silver on rainy mornings or robin’s egg on sunny afternoon or cobalt and amber when the evening was setting across Elliott Bay.
The building had a doorman, and a little frisson ran down my spine when I recognized him as a Rakshasa. He scowled as I approached. “Deliveries go to the rear.” His sneer exposed yellowed teeth that made me think of jungle things.
A lot of shapeshifters can sense fear. So I put on my best bored expression. “Not a delivery,” I said. “Appointment.”
His sneer deepened. “Yeah? With who?”
I glanced down at the email on my phone. “I just have the initials TEB..”
His gaping mouth closed with an audible snap as he straightened. “TEB?”
“TEB,” I confirmed.
He held the door open for me. “I’ll buzz for them to send down a page.”
The page was a small Asian woman in crisp green with a red band around the wrist. “Ms. Amme?” she said with a smile, advancing. “I’m here to take you Upstairs.”
You could hear it, the capital U in the way she said it.
“All right,” I said.
I trailed after her. She chatted about the weather and asked how the ride had been as we stepped into a elevator at the building’s heart. There were no numbers on the wall, just a single button. She hit it and the doors slid closed, With a hum and no discernible sense of motion, the elevator began climbing.
“What is it that the Consortium does?” I asked.
Her look was surprised. “You don’t know?”
I refrained from rolling my eyes and pointing out that I wouldn’t have asked if I did.
She looked dubious. “If They sent for you, They should tell you.”
It was amazing how she managed to get those capital letters across. “All right,” I said, folding my arms. She faced forward.
The elevator doors opened on a long hallway, its walls brushed aluminum, the light chilly as the metal surfaces. Underfoot the stone was black marble flecked with white, as though snow had fallen on the stone.
Our footsteps echoed along the hallway. I half expected to look over my shoulder and see a janitor buffing out the marks of our passage; that was how clean the place was. The place seemed deserted.
What had I gotten myself into? What sort of place was this? I should have called M, asked her about it, but I hadn’t wanted to seem as though I were looking a gift horse in the mouth. But what if the gift horse turned out to be a nightmare? This whole place felt odd and off and it had a whiff of Supernatural about it that spelled out big time. Once I had entered a vampire’s mansion as part of a team taking down one seven centuries old. That was the sort of power that permeated this place, if not even greater.
My guide opened a door and gestured me in. “He’s waiting for you.”
He? All right. I pushed my way through into an enormous antechamber, its subdued light focused on an enormous oak conference table in the center. At the end opposite me sat a figure, hidden in the shadows. Something about its outline was odd.
“Come in, Miss Amme, and have a seat,” it said.
The voice was reedy as an old man’s, but with a peculiar lisp.
The light shifted. I saw what sat across from me.
It was the Easter Bunny.