Ella was blunt. I folded my hands in front of me, watching her. She was shrewd, this reporter, trying to paint me into a corner with her words. Of course, I know the police are on the payroll for local criminals, but I can’t admit that. I can’t admit half the things I really know.
“I’m afraid I don’t agree with you. Crime is like a virus, it’s a constant struggle. Our police service is helping to heal this city from the inside out.”
A brief laugh pushed past her lips and she quickly composed herself, knowing that was an inappropriate reaction. Why did that stir something in me? The desire to lift her chin and stare into her eyes, to correct her simple act of imprudence, was overwhelming. The dark side of me wanted to teach her a lesson.
“Did I say something funny?” I demanded, my eyes burning into her.
“I’m sorry Mr. Carter,” she sat a bit straighter. “I didn’t mean any disrespect. It’s just that I follow the crime beat very closely, and I have my personal doubts about the effectiveness of our police. I mean, they can’t even catch a rogue man who is attacking criminals on his own. What kind of a city lets someone get away with that, acting outside the law?”
“You’re not a fan of the masked vigilante I take it?” I kept my face calm and unreadable. If only she knew who was sitting across the desk from her.
She shook her head. “It sets a bad precedent. It tells people that if they wear a disguise, they can be outside the law. That man, the Phantom as they call him, is going to get hurt eventually, or killed.”
I leaned forward, taking a closer look at this gorgeous creature in front of me. She had my full attention, this mouthy reporter. She squirmed under my gaze, self-conscious. There was a faint purple ring around her eye, partially hidden under a veil of makeup but not hidden well enough. “Who did that to you Ella?”
She shifted in her seat, looking down. “It’s nothing,” she mumbled. “Back to your article, I just need a quick photo and I’ll be out of your way. Is your office okay? Maybe by the window?”
She wasn’t going to tell me what happened, and I wasn’t going to press her on it. I nodded and stood up, smoothing my tie, then waited beside the floor to ceiling window of my corner office. The view of the skyline was just past me. Ella retrieved a camera from her bag and walked closer to me, I watched her move. She was a bit timid, yet comfortable in her body. Suddenly her foot caught the edge of my rug and she gasped as she fell forward.
In an instant I stepped towards her and caught her, holding her upright in my arms. My reflexes have always been impeccable, it’s how I do what I do. It’s how I avoid fists and knives. Her hands were flat against my chest and I noticed the subtle hitch in her breath when she looked into my eyes. For a moment we stayed as we were, our faces inches apart.
Ella looked away, a flush on her cheeks, then regained her composure. “I’m sorry Mr. Carter, I’m clumsy today. I’ll just get that quick picture.”