The offices of Dewey, Cheatem and Howe were bustling. Ms. Vulcan, a stick thin, stringy-haired secretary worked the desk, at 6 feet tall, she hunched over a small computer in a way that brought up unfavorable comparisons to vultures. Her long, sharp, beak-like nose twitched, smelling naivete and desperation, while she tapped her long, sharp talons, copiously painted in "Venom Vixen", a shade popularized by Hades' own Femme Fatale. "Next?" asked the secretary, talons gleaming in harsh fluorescent light that did nothing for her sallow skin. She looked green, almost ill, but her black eyes burned, eerily healthy and horrifically bright. An older man got up nervously, avoiding her gaze.
In what was intended to be a cooing, gentle voice, but had the effect of freezing the very blood of the listeners, Ms. Vulcan smiled and waved him in to see Mr. Howe. Before the door closed behind him, he was heard to say "Dear God, why is it so humid in here?!"
Turning to the next person, who sat trying not to twitch in a hard, plastic chair under a five foot wide (life-sized) portrait of Legion Dewey, who apparently had tried to present his sweetest smile to the portrait painter and succeeded only in making viewers feel like he was going to eat them, Ms. Vulcan sweetly intoned, "Step up, please." Her strange voice, a disquieting baritone, had everyone attempting to hide a shudder. At least one unwary visitor thought they imagined a forked tongue behind the badly lipsticked mouth. "Ms. Cheatem is waiting for you, Mr. Boggs. I do hope for your sake, that you remembered to bring all of the correct paperwork with you?" Ms. Vulcan attempted a smile to reassure the hapless Boggs.
He went in, surrendering his coat as he walked through the door.
Alone for a few moments, Ms. Vulcan sat at her iPad with a beautifully glossed scarlet apple in her hooked hand, perusing the appointment book.
"Hello?" came a soft, musical little voice as Ms. Vulcan was mid-bite into the apple's scarlet flesh.
"Yes?" she attempted not to hiss back.
The owner of the voice stood at the waist high counter, a lovely young thing, shyly gazing towards the floor, a hand reassuringly playing with one of her two little French braids.
"I'm Kyrie Lessen, I'm here to see Mr. Dewey at 1:30?" said the tiny girl. In the light, her skin showed an almost unearthly glow, and her golden hair gave her a natural halo. Ms. Vulcan laughed inwardly at this tiny angelic thing, so self-conscious and nervous, across from the corpulent and ugly Legion Dewey.
"Of course, Ms. Lessen, please sign in. I do hope parking wasn't too awful."
"It's the city," said Kyrie Lessen with a small smile and shrug. The others waiting, poor souls, watched her with admiration and pity... a lamb going before ravenous wolves.
"Indeed. Read over these papers and correct any errors, Mr. Dewey will be with you shortly."
"Thank you," said the girl, and walked to a horrible plastic chair with the perilously stacked clipboard in tow.
Ms. Vulcan noted as she stepped away, the curly headed toddler holding onto the bottom of Ms. Lessen's coat for security. Child in lap, she managed to go through the reams of papers ahead of her, chin resting in the golden curls.
"A few little things, but we'll have a beautiful life, sunshine," Kyrie cooed into her child's little ear, almost as if to reassure herself as well. The child didn't twitch or get fussy, in a sort of subdued fear, she merely sat in her mother's lap, playing with ribbons on her mother's blouse and burying her face in Kyrie's chest.
"Ms. Lessen and Grace?" came a weird, hollow, deep voice.
With a quiet dignity and practiced art, Kyrie balanced Gracie on her small hip, and, holding the clipboard before her, almost like a shield, she stood in a single, liquid movement.
"Mr. Dewey," she said in her musical little voice, with a sweet smile. She didn't know the practiced, cold, lifeless smile of the bureaucrat, acting was not her forte. So she offered sunshine. An older woman shook her head sadly, out of Kyrie's view. Her focus was on the man ahead of her, and on finally distancing herself from the hell that she and Gracie were finally escaping.
Legion Dewey nodded. With a wave of his meaty hand, he gestured to the elevators, the gleaming chrome doors throwing distorted images of their reality back at them.
On the way up, Kyrie attempted small talk in spite of a fear of the man who seemed to fill the elevator with himself and a strange, noxious stench. Gracie kept her little head buried, contenting herself with the roses and violets of her mother's perfume. "It's ok, Gracie," the lilting voice told her.
"First of all, Ms. Lessen, I'd like to know your reasons for the change of surname?"
"Yes, Mr. Dewey. You see, sir, I'd like to distance myself, and my Gracie from a darker past. Being linked to my ex husband in any way, robs us of security."
"Yes, that is what your lawyer said, I wanted to hear it from you." Inside, Dewey raged: "The dark isn't so bad, you twit! It can be a comfort, no one gets to you if you harden yourself!" but he put on a placid face. He could, he thought, tempt her later.