Dead Man's Hand
Of all of mankind's relative vices, Kristoph Gavin had perhaps the least tolerance for tardiness. Many a casual acquaintance had endured his glare for arriving for a dinner five minutes late; many a client had faced his scowl in the Gavin & Associates offices for not keeping an appointment. His exacting standards made him a great lawyer, the clients said. His temperament made him formidable in court; even the Judge would cower before his raised eyebrow.
What those acquaintances and clients may not have known, however, was that his standards were no less demanding of himself, and of himself he tolerated the least weakness of all.
He glanced at his Rolex for the fifth time. Twelve thirteen. He had to be at the airport by six sharp, with two important stops along the way-- and there wasn't a single sales associate to be seen in Lordly Taylor. Lunch, he reasoned, though what sort of establishment allows all its employees to go on break at the same time? He was silently composing an argument to present to a manager (provided he could ever find one), when he caught sight of a blonde young woman in a window display, balancing two clipboards and an unwieldy dress mannequin.
Kristoph allowed himself a tight smile. She would have to do.
His first throat-clearing didn't get her attention, so he had to resort to an old-fashioned, "Miss?"
"Oh!" The girl dropped her clipboards but managed to keep the mannequin upright. She glanced around for someone else to step up; there was patently no one. "O-of course, sir. What may I do for you?"
"I was hoping to find some service," he said dryly. "But I have been standing in your perfume display for the past thirteen minutes and seen no one."
It wasn't his full complaint, but it certainly galvanized her into action. And if he appeared to ignore the fact that she dropped her clipboards twice more on the way to the register, he was simply logging it away in his memory, adding to his mental file.
How could she be of service? Ah, so he was looking to buy a gift! For a sweetheart? (Here she stammered a bit, her cheeks flushing pink. Kristoph savored some amusement.) No, a present for a young girl. As a thank you.
While she was wracking her brains to come up with suitable suggestions, Kristoph's cell phone buzzed; it was a police officer from the Detention Center. "Mr. Gavin, sir!" The man was clearly nervous, which was somewhat mollifying in light of the interruption. "It's your client, Mr. Gavin. He says he needs to see you this afternoon."
"It can wait," Kristoph said coolly, watching the shop girl present a cameo locket, a pink wristwatch, and a brooch in the shape of a little cat. He shook his head to all of them. "Tell him that I will see him tomorrow morning in the courtroom, as discussed, at nine thirty am."
"But Mr. Gavin, he insists. He needs to see you this afternoon, as-- as soon as possible."
"Yes all right. I can be there at quarter to one. But tell Mr. Enigmar that I have another engagement this afternoon, and can stay no longer than half an hour."
He heard the guard relaying this, heard the deeper voice of his client in the background. Back on the phone, the guard said, "Yes, sir. He says he just needs one hand. It shouldn't even take that long."
"Thank you. Good day." Kristoph flipped his phone closed, annoyed. Needing a hand? What on earth was the magician on about now? He made another mental note to avoid theatrical personalities in the future, whenever possible. Ah well, if the meeting were short, and his other errand did not take long, he could still be at the airport in time for his brother's arrival. Likely, Klavier would have plans for the rest of the evening, so that would still allow them time for whatever he had in mind. Just because Kristoph was not particularly looking forward to the reunion did not mean that he would not endeavor to be punctual.
He glowered at the shop girl; she quailed under his gaze, but rallied bravely. "Is everything all right?"
Kristoph checked his first response, and smiled graciously instead. "I hope you will forgive my impatience. It seems my day is full of unexpected appointments."
His carefully-timed smile did the trick-- the girl relaxed a little, and seemed to have a flash of inspiration. "I think I have just the thing, sir; you'll be out of here in no time."
And yes, it was just the thing indeed. She presented him a tray of delicate little cosmetics, all arranged in clever compacts or faceted bottles. Just the thing to delight a small girl, to enchant her imagination, for her to keep on hand always. To keep on hand? The nail polish caught his eye: the bottle top, the nail polish brush, had for its handle a tiny crystal hand with its fingers oustretched. Yes, nail polish was exactly right, and he said as much. He would take two.
She checked him out with more efficiency than he'd encountered yet that day, and his thanks were sincere. He glanced down at the clerk's nametag as he took the small Lordly Taylor gift bag. "Thank you, Adrian."
"Good luck with the rest of your day, sir," she said. "I'm sure you'll make all your meetings on time."
He indulged in another smile, lifting one of the little bottles between his fingers. It caught the light appealingly, bright and promising in his hand. "Yes, I may yet be on schedule."