Viktor looked up from his tablet, as he heard the bell above the door ring. When he saw who walked in, he looked back down. Her shoe heels clicked against the white oak floor. Viktor flicked his fingers across the tablet screen to see a picture of a different wedding cake. There’d be television cameras at the Silva wedding, with no spending limit he had to do his best work.
“What do I need to do, to get some service around here?” Her voice interrupted his thoughts.
Viktor looked up at Missy, who had reached the counter. “Where’s Benson?”
“He went to get something from another store.” Missy tapped her perfect, French manicured fingernails against the pastel green countertop. “Do you ignore every customer or just me?”
“But I’m not your brother.”
“Close enough. Are you here to chat or do you actually want to order something?”
“Two coffees to go. We won’t drink them here; our reputation might be affected.”
“What sort of coffee? We’re a cake shop next to a tourist trap. There’s twenty different coffees on the menu.”
“More than most of the local cafes, I’m surprised this place isn’t packed with hipsters.” Missy didn’t look at the menu. “Can I have two flat whites?”
“That sounds like a question. The convenience store, down the road, can do a flat white for a dollar. What makes you think I can’t make one?”
Missy glanced at the coffee menu, then met Viktor’s eyes with a smile. “Can you do it for a dollar?”
“Mine cost more because they are substantially better.”
Missy gave Viktor a thin smile as she handed him the money. “I’ll go sit down.”
Missy turned around, black curls bouncing off her back as she walked to the magazine rack, where she grabbed an old gossip rag and sat down near the counter.
Viktor watched her for a moment before speaking. “When Benson called a week ago, you were in the Netherlands. What changed? Did the European vampires run out of crimes for you to solve? Or did Benson get sick of carrying your bags across Europe while you made headlines?”
“Benson and I have the same job, Viktor.”
“Benson is the Watson to your Sherlock. He was a nobody, just another Special Investigator until the famed Merissa Leak; ‘who never leaves a case unsolved’, married him.”
“I don’t like what you’re implying.” Missy closed her magazine. “If you must know. We were offered a job here. Our employer wants the best, and they have it. I’m not supposed to talk about it until the official press release.”
“Are you sticking around?”
“Want me to take Benson back to Europe?”
“What makes you think that?”
“Just tell him you’re sick of his bullshit,” Missy said. “Don’t look at me like that Viktor, it’s obvious. He treats you like a small child that needs to be mothered, and you’re sick of it. I’m the famed independent detective, remember? I can sense these things.”
“You’re good at reading beings, you mean. There’s nothing mystical about what you do, Missy. Don’t talk like that, he could walk through the door any minute.” Viktor walked the coffee over to Missy’s table. He went back to his tablet; he needed the perfect cake. He couldn’t screw this up.
Viktor looked up when Benson walked in forty minutes later.
“Two years and this city hasn’t changed a bit.” Benson walked to the counter, ignoring Missy who walked up to him, a coffee cup in each hand.
“Hartright hasn’t changed at all? Did you miss the part where they built that great big, new high rise and moved The Society headquarters into it?”
“I guess.” Benson looked around. “Your business has taken off surprisingly well.”
“What do you want, Benson?”
“Only to tell you that we’re back in town indefinitely, but it looks like Missy beat me to it. I would have called, but we decided to come back early for the wedding. Twenty million vampires at last count and only three hundred invitations to the wedding of the decade. We’re lucky.”
“I didn’t know you were invited to the wedding. How do you know the Silva Clan?”
“It’s all everyone can talk about. Esmeralda Silva’s favourite Spawn getting married to a nobody from a Clan, no one important has heard of. You’d think she’d marry someone at her social level. Apparently, Esmeralda’s fine with it, I’m shocked she hasn’t put a stop to it.”
“You know all about marrying outside your league, don’t you Benson?”
“Excuse me?” Benson asked.
“I have little time for gossip.” Viktor touched an image on his tablet, enlarging it.
“Come on, Missy, he’s working.” Benson waved a hand at the empty tables. “He’s having trouble keeping up with all of these customers.”
“You said two minutes.” Missy pushed Benson’s cup into his hand. “It’s cold.” She walked over to the bin to dispose of her empty cup.
“Consider the money a donation.” Benson followed her to the bin and threw his cup away.
“Hurry from my shop Benson, wouldn’t want the friends, who got you those invitations, to see you here.”
Benson opened the door and pushed Missy from the shop, almost bumping into the man who held the door open for them.
Viktor looked down at the page he had flicked to while watching Benson and Missy leave. He reached for his phone as he pulled the invitation from a draw under the counter and dialled the number listed to get put through to Ivy. “Ivy. It’s Viktor Crumble. Quick question, what flowers will you have at your wedding?”
The attractive auburn-haired man had walked in as Benson and Missy left, and he smiled at Viktor as he moved towards the counter. Viktor clicked his tongue; he refused to let himself be drawn in by a smile and a pretty face. He could tell the man was going to be the type of customer, who was nice in a superficial, sickly sweet way. That kind of nice was a beings attempt to make the server like them, cater to their every whim, and not spit in their food.
He smiled again when he reached the counter, his light blue eyes fixed on Viktor’s grey. “I was walking past, and the window display caught my eye. My co-workers sent me on a coffee hunt.”
“How many coffees would you like to order?” Viktor looked down at the ID tag hooked to the man’s lab coat. “Sebastian?”
He raised an eyebrow at Viktor. Viktor looked him in the eyes, then down at the tag. Sebastian followed Viktor’s eyes. He looked at the lab coat, as though he only just realised he had left it on. The man worked for The Society, the vampire governing body. Viktor had known as soon as the man started talking with an American accent.
“Only one. I volunteered to be the guinea pig. I’m not fussed or anything. You can recommend anything but de-cafe. I’m only halfway through organising my office and lab. I now understand why so many department heads decided to quit just before The Society is due to move.”
Viktor shifted his focus to the bags under the man’s slightly bloodshot eyes. What the hell was he supposed to make? It was the customers’ job to choose, not his. Viktor’s mind ran over his supplies; he did need to use the rest of that cinnamon before it went off. “I’ll make you a cinnamon latte.”
“Sounds good. I’ll drink it here, so add a piece of chocolate cake.” Sebastian sat at a table near the counter and pulled his phone from his pocket.
Viktor looked at the clock, twenty minutes to closing time and he still didn’t have his quota. Hopefully, he could get this guy out and lead a human in before five.