The look of surprise on Hilary’s face rivaled any I’ve yet seen. It’s normal for my clients to raise an eyebrow or make a joke upon entering my office, but this woman looked like she’d been shot. Maybe she had, I couldn’t know for sure, but certainly not as she walked through the door.
‘Um, hello,’ she said after a moment. She put a hand to her hair, which was somewhat disarranged. It was windy out today. I gave her my most reassuring smile, but it only seemed to confuse her further.
‘Do sit down,’ I indicated the dark blue armchair on the other side of my desk, and regretted for a moment choosing the more professional but less comfortable chair I sat in. Sometimes, when I wasn’t expecting anybody, I switched the chairs around and worked in luxury.
She took two steps to stand beside the chair, but didn’t sit. ‘I didn’t expect -’ she began, then broke off.
I’m the first to admit that my career choice was inspired by the likes of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, but this is twenty-first century Australia. My offices are modern and airy; I don’t work from a dingy flat above a shop. My newest client, I realised, thought she was in a paperback.
‘That’s quite all right,’ I told her. ‘Just sit down and tell me all about it.’
‘About whatever it is you’ve come to talk about.’
‘Right.’ She visibly collected herself, took a deep breath, and sat. ‘I’m not sure.’ I nodded. People who were sure went to the police. ‘Maybe I’m imagining things,’ she began babbling. ‘Maybe it’s nothing, and maybe she really is in Uganda only she didn’t tell me anything about it, but she does go to some strange places sometimes. Maybe she’s just on holiday and this is all my imagination.’
This didn’t sound like the usual accusations of adultery or petty theft. This might be interesting. I took up a pen. ‘Why don’t we start with your name?’