The cool air hit her as she entered the apartment. A few photographs escaped from the mountain of papers and files in her hand, fluttering to the floor in annoying slow-motion.
“Shit,” Meera muttered, “where the hell did they come from?”
A head popped up from the couch in front of her, a mass of messy red hair and scratchy stubble, followed by a pale, freckled arm in a creased shirt. The man stretched, making a sound like a lazy bear. “How many times have I told you to get yourself a briefcase or a bag or something?” He rested his head on the arm of the couch and watched her drop to her knees. He wasn’t going to help her then, huh?
She didn’t answer, so naturally, he continued. “Actually, didn’t I get you a briefcase for Christmas, Meera? I think I remember getting you a briefcase.”
“Yeah,” she rolled her eyes, picturing the brown, faux-leather monstrosity and her forced smile as she thanked him. “and it was ugly and manly.” She wondered where she’d hidden it?
He grinned that stupid, self-assured grin. “That’s not a good reason to go losing evidence, now is it? If you’re going to insist on using paper like a Neanderthal, you should at least keep it safe. All that stuff is better off in a man bag than lost somewhere under your bed. Plus, wouldn’t manly suit you? You strike me as butch. Would you say you’re butch? I’d say so.”
Butch? Her? “I think I’ve found a use for that briefcase.” Meera gathered the papers together in a neat pile.
“Yeah.” She stood up and smiled sweetly at him. “I bet I could hit you real hard with it. That might shut you up.” She dumped the papers onto the small, round dining table behind her.
His booming laugh filled the air. “Oh, come on, M. You know I’m just joking.”
“I should have never told you.”
“Who else were you going to tell if not your best friend, huh?”
“Who told you that you were my best friend?” Meera’s hands went to her hips and she tried her best to look angry. It was no use, though. She could already feel the hint of a smile twitching on the corners of her lips.
“Well, my dear Meera. I did. I know you love me, after all. Who doesn’t? And who else could you trust to keep your big, gay secret?”
What a moron. The smile broke through and she scoffed to hide it. “You’re an asshole, do you know that, Archie?”
“I may have been told that once or twice.” He stood up and stretched again, joints cracking as though he hadn’t moved from that couch for decades. Or at least for the whole day. The perks of being rich and not having to lift a finger, she guessed.
“And you wouldn’t even know what butch was if people started wearing signs around their necks.”
Archie smiled. “That’s what you got caught up on? Of course, you aren’t butch! You might be the best fighter I know, but no one can pull off a dress quite like you. Except for Lili, of course. She’s the most gorgeous woman on the planet. No offence.”
He seriously didn’t get it, but she let it slide. “Nice save,” she winked. Then, watching Archie’s eyes wander to the table with her papers, she grinned. “Wanna hear about this case? It’s a big one. Huge! Probably gonna be the biggest of my career.” The excitement began to creep on her once again — the same itching feeling in the back of her mind that she had felt when she got the call. There was something to this one. She just knew it.
“You know I always do.” He pulled out a seat from the dining table and spun it around, straddling it like an idiot.
“Well,” she spread the papers out on the table and began sorting through them, barely containing her enthusiasm. She wanted to squeal and jump like a child, but that would spoil the surprise. Archie probably thought that it was just some normal high-profile infidelity case or something. God, she couldn’t wait to see his face. She paused for effect.
“Well? Spit it out! How big is big?”
“You know David Marlowe, right?”
“I mean,” Archie wet his lips and Meera could already hear the snarky answer forming in his mind. His mouth opened once more with a little pop and she prepared herself to cringe, “not personally.” Wonderful. Just wonderful.
She sighed. “Do you know of David Marlowe?”
“Yes…” Archie dragged out the word a little to annoy her.
“What if he isn’t as anti-faerie as he likes to claim?”
Now she had his attention. His lazy smile still played on his face, but there was no denying the slight tightness of his lips. “What do you mean?”
“Well, I’m working with a journalist. Hannah Tully. She’s doing a piece on his… extra-marital affairs and she called me in. It turns out that he’s been a naughty boy, Arch. A very naughty boy. The twenty-different-faerie-escorts-in-a-week kinda naughty that could ruin his career.”
“No.” Archie breathed. The smiles and jokes were gone now. He stared at her, mouth hanging open and blue eyes wide.
“Yes,” Meera grinned, “we’re gonna be doing a huge exposé on this guy any day now. Hannah’s gonna see if she can break it to the big news stations. Let’s see what the magiphobes do then, huh? One of their own meeting up with faeries behind their backs. And Huntley’s right-hand, on top of that!”
“This is huge, M!”
“I know!” She resisted the urge to squeal. Archie would never let her live it down if she did.
“What the hell does Marlowe think he’s doing?”
Meera laughed. “Well, he’s not having a tea party with them, I can tell you that.”
“Very funny, M. You know what I mean. Like, I know they’re idiots, but this is stupid even for them.”
“I guess he got complacent. It makes sense, with all of the laws they’ve got through Parliament the past year. I’d probably get complacent, too, if I’d managed to convince a whole country of people to believe in some fucked-up conspiracy theory.”
“How do you even fit that many women in such a short amount of time?”
Meera chuckled. Of course that was where his mind went! “That might be one of the only skills Marlowe has to his name. Well, that and his ability to make other people’s brain cells decay. I’d say that’s a pretty impressive skill.”
“Maybe he’s a faerie after all, eh? With a power like that?”
That would certainly be convenient. If she could make the magiphobes turn on one another like the dogs they were with that kinda information, it would make her life so much easier. For now, though, the fact that Marlowe had a little fetish for faeries would have to do. Surely it would be enough to start something. She had hope that her work would prompt other people to come forward and tell similar stories about other members of the Anti-Magic League.
Meera felt as though her chest were overflowing with excitement. It felt amazing to be doing her part, however small, to make the world a little safer for people like Archie and Maia.
For a moment, a silence fell over them. Archie plucked a picture out of her pile and stared at it. Marlowe walking out of the back of The World’s End pub with a cigar in his mouth and a thin, faerie woman on his arm. She was tall and white with dyed fuchsia hair and a thin smile stretched across her face. Archie let out a sigh and tucked the picture back into the pile. His eyes fell to his hands.
Meera wondered why he got like this so often lately. One moment, he would be happy. Smiling. Joking. His usual, stupid self. The next, he would be lost in thought. His shoulders would sag as if he had the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. He’d stay like that for hours if she wasn’t there to snap him out of it, she was sure.
“Archie,” she smiled awkwardly, unsure what to do when he got in one of his moods like this, “I have a good feeling about this. This might be the thing to bring down the AML. It might be the thing to make the people see sense. Who’s gonna want to follow a bunch of hypocrites?”
He gave her a strange look. It seemed hopeful, but she couldn’t help but notice the slight tinge of sadness buried in there. “I hope you’re right, M. I really hope you are.”