Chapter 5:

The Bureau - Part 3

Gloudhaus


“So...” Annabeth broke the silence between the three remaining occupants of the room. “What are ya? Ain’t talking about race, by the way.”

“That’s very rude, Ms. Solomon.” Louise answered as her aide started to glare at Anna with renewed intensity now that no one else was around.

“I don’t care if it’s rude. I’m just a little curious about this situation... It’s not every day that y'see someone that can boss around a buncha big-wigs like those.”

“Maybe they are just obeying orders.”

“Pretty sure they’re the ones who give orders…” Anna continued while getting more relaxed in her chair, and with her speech. “Ain't no need to answer though. I can always gather mah' data and all, but maybe yer curious too, ay? One hand cleans the other or somethin’…”

“Can you please go back to sitting properly?” Karim warned while the redhead was almost getting her feet on the table.

“Ow? The li'l girl is back? I couldn’t see ya down there… How are ya? Got some dry clothes?”

The distortion on the blondie’s face made Anna smile again, but her eyes were still focused on Louise. The unchanging expression on the woman's face was more impressive either way.

“Aham! Could you stop trying to rile Karim, please? You’ll have a lot to fight from now on, so picking one inside your current workplace wouldn’t be the best plan.” The real adult in the room said with eyes that weren’t matching her expression.

“Fair enough.” Conceded Anna while fixing herself. “I’ll dial down a li'l bit since yer the boss and all… I still want to know yer real role in all this though.”

Anna's tone became serious for a moment and the two other members of the Bureau saw the weird shine of her golden eye, but just for a moment. In the next one, she was back to the infuriating red-haired girl with multicolored eyes again.

Louise didn’t react much to it though and instead started to answer the girl’s question as if nothing had happened at all.

“What if I said that I’m pretty much the same as your pope around here?”

“The religious head?”

“The leader of the dark side of the country.”

Both females shared a knowing smile that was anything close to peaceful and then Anna pointed her face to the small girl watching by the side.

“Apprentice?”

“Second-in-command.” Karim herself answered.

“Quite young fer this, ain't ya?”

“I’m two years older than you. Aren’t YOU too young for this?”

“Why would I… Wait... Yer what?!”

“She’s nineteen, Ms. Solomon. She started working a little early for sure, but she’s one of the best at what she does.” Louise interjected as she saw the confused expression on Annabeth’s face.

Karim was giving an aura of superiority as she was hearing so though.

“Fine. Whatever y'say...” Annabeth forced herself to accept their words as she had more pressing matters for now. “I guess it’s yer turn now. Curious about anythin', boss lady?

“Very proper when you want to, eh? I’ll start simple then…” The overseer said while setting her mind on a question. “How did someone as tame as you managed to get here?”

The question was somewhat unexpected to Annabeth. She was sure she wasn't acting tame at all even, but maybe that was still too little in comparison. In the end, after spending a little while with a confused expression on her face, her smile finally went back with a snicker.

“Heh! I’m tame? I knew envoys to the archipelago were the battle-crazed type, but it seems that they had no respect for protocol too...”

“This much is not an answer.” The tanned shorty cut in before Anna could steer the conversation away.

“And you should be more patient, y'know?” Anna quipped back for no real reason before continuing. “I’m here because the guys up there had SOME interest in solvin' this case. This place is a wonderful huntin' ground and all, but sending the pure-blooded hounds to investigate ain't the best plan... I'm also somewhat of a problem child though.”

“You people were investigating this same case before?” Louise asked with a serious tone.

“That’s a second question, boss lady. I can give what ya wanna in exchange fer why this li'l girl is with ya though… The whole history, please.”

The smile on Anna’s face was as smug as it was infuriating, but this one question wasn’t something Louise could answer by herself. The expression on Karim’s face was enough to tell that she wouldn’t comply too.

It was a pained face that seemed as if she was seeing an army of ghosts. All it made was give enough to make the red-haired inquisitor get some ideas though.

“Well, I guess we done here then. I’ll get a lodgin' somewhere and roam around a li'l bit until our next meetin'.” She ended the talk with such while getting her trolley bag and hat from the corner of the room. "See ya..."

But before Anna could leave the room, she had to stop and talk with the overseer again. If she didn't, the whole plan of roaming around wouldn't work at all. Well, at least it wouldn't work without some arm-bending.

“I know we ain’t allies or anythin' of the kind, but...” Anna turned around while pointing to the small girl following her as she tried to leave the room. “Why is this dwarf following me?!”

“Hey! I’m at least seven centimeters above a dwarf.” Karim complained in a way that wouldn't really solve her problem.

“That’s not the point! Why yer followin' me?!” Annabeth said while switching her glare between Karim and Louise with clear unhappiness.

“It’s not my dream job too, but I am your partner for the time being.”

“YER MAH' WHAT?!!!”

“She forgot to tell you? I’m pretty sure it was something Karim would warn you right away when getting you at the port...” Louise said with a very fake expression of confusion.

“You must be kiddin'… She’s mah' babysitter?! Do ya wanna fight?! I can whoop yer ass, ay!” Anna asked with a voice loaded with outrage and losing any control over her speech.

“She’s not your babysitter…”

“You need one though.” Karim muttered while ignoring the glare she was receiving.

“Will you teach me how to visit the toilet now?” Anna snarked back, getting a very pissed reaction from her small partner.

“That was just because you got me distracted.”

“What a perfect 'scuse… Wonder how well it holds with yer pals 'round ‘ere.”

The murderous smile was back on Anna’s face and she could also see the serious anger on Karim’s expression as she hunched down. They were ready to solve the fight from earlier.

“We can always have a second go, bumpkin.”

“Would love to, weaklin'.”

Anna was reaching for her revolver and black particles were swirling around Karim’s arm as they got ready to go, but their movements were stopped and the heads of both girls hit the other before anything could happen.

“W-what the…?!”

“Whyyy, Lou…?”

The cause of their accident held both dizzy girls as they tried to recover and threw them outside the meeting room.

“You both are partners now, so don’t kill each other! I don’t care if you’re protected by the church or my own protegee, I’m not losing time with infighting.” Louise’s voice once again got tinted with a terrifying coat as she said so, but she was back to normal the next moment again. “Enjoy your lodgings and try to befriend, you both. I’ll see you next time.”

And then, the door closed on their faces, giving Anna some time to note the details she had collected as she decided on how to tackle the situation.

“I guess we don’t have much choice, eh?” The red-haired girl said, now with her speech fixed again. “Show me the way then… Partner.”

With a last silent exchange of glares, Karim sighed and started to walk with a red-haired girl plotting on her back.