"Can I help you?" I asked, slightly irritated by her presence, nettled further by her stillness and stare.
She kept staring. "You're older than I thought," she finally said.
"Looks can be deceiving," I replied coolly. I've been grey as long as I can remember.
She said nothing. I guessed she didn't accept the truth of the adage. She relied on her looks for everything, I could see—big liquid eyes, hair so soft you wanted to make nuzzling it your full-time occupation. She was vain, and why not? The sheen and color of hazelnut chocolate.
I hate chocolate. It can kill you. I knew a guy, once, who ate just a mouthful and dropped dead.
But that's a story for another time.
"My name is Evangeline," she said. "And I need your help."
I nodded for her to continue. It was, after all, what I did.
But instead of elaborating, she stared at me, a slight indignant rise in her chest. "Aren't you going to introduce yourself?"
I shrugged. "You know who I am. You came to me."
"And yet it is hardly polite."
I considered. She was trying to unsettle me; I could see that well enough. Underneath that velvet exterior she was prickly. If I took the case I might regret it, profoundly.
But there was a hardness about her that I recognized—and respected. She was sleek and aloof, cut from my same cloth. I couldn't deny the stirring of curiosity, the moth-wing flutter in my brain.
"Brimley is my name," I said, deciding.
"Your Christian name?"
"I have just the one," I replied. "Mr. Brimley. Mr. Brimley Brimley. Like Heathcliff. Like Humbert." Literary references quickly discomfited imperious clients. "You may call me any variation that pleases you."
"Very well, Mr. Brimley," said Evangeline. "Can we proceed? I've come a long way, and I don't have much time."