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Lay shifted, yawning behind the back of his hand before pushing to stand. When he opened the door to his office and peered into the mostly empty chairs of the waiting room, he was fractionally more awake. As it was late in the afternoon, there were only four people left for him to see and one had not arrived yet. No worries as it was not their time yet.
"Ann-Marie?" He inquired, having looked at his list of scheduled appointments before coming out here. A woman in her late thirties stood rather fast with a nod. She clutched her handbag to her chest as she skid beside empty, plain chairs and avoided any contact with another female waiting.
Lay's dark eyes touched over her form, taking in her grey pencil skirt and matching blouse. He didn't see anything unusual about her which caused a frown. Shifting out of the way, he held the door open as she passed into his office. Sliding a lock of golden hair behind an ear, she paushed right next to one of the chairs, blue eyes going up to Lay's face.
He closed the door and motioned calmly for her to sit. She squeaked and nodded, sitting down before smoothing out her skirt. The heels on her legs were nearly three inches, what he could see of her calves in pantyhose that matched her peach flesh.
In his own clothes, khak's and a dark blue sweater, he felt overdressed. Clearing his throat, he went around his oak desk and sat down behind it. Scooting into place and taking a notepad, he flipped to a fresh page and grabbed a pen.
"Alright, so, what are we here for, Mizz...?"
"Jacobson. But Marie is fine."
"Alright, Marie. What can I help you with today?" He watched as she continued to clutch onto her bag as if it were the only thing in the world keeping her alive. Now that he thought about it, she was a trite bit pale in the face and her pupils appeared to be dilated. Maybe she was on something.
"I've been looking for my daughter for the past three years, Mr... Lay?"
"It's just Lay. We don't use full or real names in my business." The tone of his voice was meant to be calming but it only seemed to make her swallow hard in a gulp.
"Lay... I've done everything I could think of. I went to many different police agencies... I did my own looking. I traveled in places I never even knew existed. I have no idea what else to do..." Lay raised a dark brow at her as her face twisted to agony. He wasn't immune to emotion but he didn't trigger at others experiencing them. "I had... a woman watching me. She told me to come here."
She thrust a hand into her bag, scrounging around for something she thought was important. Lay rolled his tongue around his mouth for a moment before leaning back in his chair. He hadn't written anything down as this didn't seem like a case he normally took. With a desperate look to her face, she scooted to the edge of her seat and thrust out her hand. Between her fingers she clutched a crumbled business card.
Impressed, Lay leaned himself forward and took it from her. The creases where she had crumpled, bent, folded, and clutched the card felt curious to his fingers. It was one of his old business cards that he hadn't seen in years. His name, just LAY, was on the front but it wasn't printed it was pressed. The card itself was black but the pressed letters were lined with a fine hint of red. In horrifically small lettering, so small one would need a magnifying glass, his office phone number was on the bottom.
"Huh, well. I haven't seen this type of business card in forever. How did you come across this again? From who?" He looked back up at her and she fidgeted. This close it was still hard to see exactly but her eyes appeared bloodshot and they definitely were dilated.
"There was... I was on the news for a while because of her going missing and this woman... She came up to me while I was putting up a new flyer in the mall." One of Marie's hands came up to touch along her collarbone, the movement drawing his attention for a moment before he looked back up. "She asked me... the oddest questions. And then gave me that."
"What kind of questions?" She appeared taken back from the question, hand rubbing harder a bit at the bone through her blouse. Her blue eyes became unfocused at something beyond his right shoulder.
"One of them... well. She started out by asking me if I had found Natalie yet, which I hadn't, obviously. I mean I had her flyers in my hand!" The woman chuckled in a way that made Lay concerned she might break down into tears.
"Natalie is your daughters name?"
"Yes. I named her after my grandmother, though she was Natalia." He grunted to let her know he understood. Shifting her hold on her bag now that the card was out of her care, she kept going. "She asked if I thought my daughter was still alive which seemed odd, right? Of course I believe she's alive. Then she as- You're not writing any of this down."
The way she spoke caught his attention despite the fact that he'd been paying attention. He glanced down to where her eyes were glaring at the blank paper and unmoved pen. Lay had, in fact, not written anything down. Letting out a low breath, he looked back up to her face which accused him with watery, angry eyes.
"Marie, I don't know why the woman gave you my card. This is an old one, at any rate, I'm surprised it still has my number on it..." He sighed and tossed it into the garbage under his desk much to Marie's obvious shock and dislike. "I don't do missing persons' cases, exactly. It's not m-"
"I have money! I can afford whatever you want. I will find a way to pay you anything you ask, please! I don't know anything about you, but if you have kids, if you have anything you've ever lost that ruined you... please." She was leaning forward, one hand on the desk, knuckles white. He looked to her hand and looked her over, frown on his face. He really didn't know what she wanted to hear, he couldn't do this.
The moment his mouth opened to respond, however, a door towards the back of his medium-sized office opened. Marie, who was either high strung or hadn't noticed the door-or both, jumped so hard she forced a gurgling gasp from herself.
Lay watched her carefully as he turned to look at the door. A man came through, hand staying on the door handle. There was a ridiculously giddy smile on his face, one hand in a suit pocket. He wore a dark blue suit that looked black unless he shifted just right in the comforting lighting in the office. His hair, dyed silver, looked pillow-soft.
"Oh, I didn't realize you were with a client. She looks... You look delectable..." The man looked her up and down as he let go of the door handle and came in a few few. Lay raised a hand to stop him and the male pouted, icy blue eyes-obviously contacts-locked on the woman.
"I'm with someone that isn't for you, mmm? Did you need something?" Lay didn't stand up but he didn't put his hand down. It drew those eyes to the hand and then up the arm to Lay's face.
"I... well, it can wait." One of the blue eyes winked to the blond woman as the stranger took one, then two steps backwards. "Bye, gorgeous." The door closed behind the male and Lay turned back around with an eye roll and huff.
"Is he one of your agents? He's rather rude." Marie commented as she tried to act like she hadn't been unsettled by the strange man.
"Yeah, Choi can be a right prick. He never knocks."
"What... what did he mean by 'delectable'?" Her voice shook a bit and Lay sighed. It was either now or never.
"Probably not what you think. I'm going to be straightforward with you: I don't deal in missing persons. Mostly because my particular job deals in making missing persons."
"W-what?" Shock rocked the woman to the back of the chair, hands crossed and white-knuckling the bag so hard it was going to leave dents.
"Everything me and my employees do or deal with is illegal. That would explain the lack of information on the card. Or the fact that, as I'm sure you tried, I'm not online anywhere. No one knows about us. We don't technically exist."
"I'm not worried about telling you because there isn't a damn thing you can do about it." He sighed and slide a hand through his hair. It revealed two blue streaks dyed under his natural brown but it was gone before any comment could be made.
"I would love to help you, Marie, I would. I literally cannot, however. My ties are not what you need. Trust me, you don't want any of my help."
"But I don't have anywhere to go. I don't... what about Choi? Or anyone else who works here? What if they know people? What if someone just like you guys took my girl!" She thrust to her feet and, holding out a hand, Lay rose with her. He wasn't upset and his body language showed that he simply wanted her to remain calm. He understood how she was feeling even if he didn't have children of his own. It wasn't hard to see the pain of a parent who was looking in an endless bucket.
"Choi would do the opposite of help you. Please, sit back down."
"I will not! I have nowhere else to go, Lay, please! Even if you had a name, someone else, to send me to. Anything." Tears slipped out of her eyes and down her cheeks. She wasn't hostile, she was desperate. That was a more well-known feeling to Lay and it made him nervous because desperate people do desperate things.
"I... I may have a name. But they might just be another dead end like here." He sighed and pushed a button on his wired phone.
"Get me Allen's cards." There was a hum and buzz when he let go of the button and Marie dropped back down with a huff and creak of the chair.
Seemingly satisfied for the moment, she slipped into her seat and Lay followed suit. They waited silently for a few short minutes before the back door opened once more. Choi walked in with a half smile, head tilted up to show the violent curve of his jaw. His hands were full this time: a file held almost daintily between them. He walked to the desk, staring at Marie the whole time. Lay didn't look up at him but firmly shoved against a hip the moment the male was in his peripherals.
"She's so pretty!" He whispered unnecessarily, bowing at the knees a little.
"And not yours! Now get goin' you have a meeting at seven." Lay shoved the male again and Choi huffed, turning and walking back out. Turning right at the door, he eyed Marie in a way that made her feel like her skin was crawling.
Having had the folder dropped on his desk right in front of him, Lay flipped over the front of the manilla object. Inside, he held down a pile of cards under a paperclip so he could easily slide out just one. Holding it up, he looked over the information before handing it over.
Marie, stunned a little, reached forward and took it. The card was onyx black but shined when she shifted it in the light. The name ALLEN was in gorgeous silver but only when the light hit it just right. It was smooth to the touch and beautifully glossy with a number on the back bottom. Each number was pressed ever so gently rather than typed on. She looked at it for a few minutes and then looked back up to Lay who seemed to have endless patience. His hands were linked together above the folder he'd closed.
"I hope it takes you places I couldn't. He does searches, of sorts."
"Of sorts?" Her voice was distant, distracted, like she was stunned.
"Yes. He's... a bounty hunter in a way. Kills people for money."
"You're sending me to an assassin?" Marie nearly screamed the words and he raised a hand, lowering it as he pursed his lips to shush her.
"Shh, please. Keep your voice down. I told you, we're not exactly a legal business. The fact that you keep clutching your handbag like that is your gut instinct telling you to run. Why? Because we're not good people." He rose to his feet and rounded the desk while she scrambled to stand herself. "Now, you can go to Allen, or not. It doesn't make any difference to me but I can't help you any further."
He placed a gentle hand to the middle of her back and walked her to his office door, putting a hand on the doorknob. She continued to life-line her bag, allowing herself to be lead. She was warm to the touch, he blouse a nice material against his work-worn hand. Leaning close to an ear, he shook his head a little.
"I highly suggest you don't come back to my office. For your own safety."
"Is... that... Did you just threaten me?" Huge blue eyes turned to him, raising anger bubbling inside of her so hard he could see it.
"No, not at all." Removing his hand from her mid back when she twitched away from him, Lay breathed out slowly. "We're not perfect as a human race, Marie. I employ, and am myself, worse than others in imperfections." Her furrowed brow told him she wasn't exactly getting it and he nodded a motion towards the back door that Choi had entered through twice.
"The last person Choi was so interested in went missing, and the only traces they found of her was in his kitchen."
The look of utter shock and disgust yanked a smug look on Lay's own face. She glanced to the door and then shoved his hand off the knob to the one belonging to his office. She stumbled out of the doorway and past the mostly empty chairs. Lay, along with the others in the waiting area, watched her stumble out. She nearly tripped over someone's foot and she yelped, snapping out an apology as she turned tail and left faster.
Lay shifted in the doorway and then turned his eyes to the three that turned to look at him.
"Who was my six thirty?" The beaming smile he gave told everyone that what had happened was not their business and it worked. One of the women stood and headed over, feet landing hard in her steel boots. The door closed behind them and Lay put the skittish Marie from his mind.