The man’s feet immediately dropped to the floor, shooting his body up and nearly out of his seat and throwing his cap onto his knees. He came to quite forcibly and stared around for who or what had caused this completely unasked-for situation. He settled at last on the pearl-haired woman staring daggers at him.
“Who are you?” he said, then rubbed his eyes and repeated. “Who are you?”
“Reginald Bullock?” Rhi asked.
“No, that’s me,” he replied, replacing the cap on his balding head. “I’m asking who you are.”
Rhi bit her lip but stood to attention, holding her helmet tightly against her hip. “Rhiannon Gillford, Patrolwitch.”
“Nice to meet you, Rhiannon Gillford, Patrolwictch,” Reginald Bullock repeated. “Now what are you doing here?”
“I have an assignment for you, sir,” she said and held out the memo.
Mr. Bullock stared at the memo as if he expected it to do something. Rhi held it out more earnestly until he finally took it. Reginald unfolded it slowly, glancing up at the Patrolwitch, who was still standing there. He read the memo, glancing back up at her again once he had finished.
“An assignment, you say?” he droned.
“Yes, sir,” Rhi replied and held out the files. “It’s very important.”
Reginald took the files but did not make to open them. He just stared back at Rhi, who stared back at him.
“Important?” he asked. “Really?”
Rhi nodded most assuredly.
“I see,” he droned again. He continued to stare at her, then, somehow resigned to his fate, sat back in his chair. “Well, then, I’ll get right on it.” And he tossed the file on top of the nearest stack and set himself back in his chair, making all the moves, it seemed, to resume his former activity.
Rhi goggled at the files he had so nonchalantly tossed on the pile. She went slack-jawed, wordless, for a whole minute. It didn’t make any sense.
“Um, excuse me, sir,” she tried. Reg opened an eye to stare at her over his nose. She pointed at the files. “Aren’t you going to at least read them?”
Reg Bullock sighed. A look that almost bordered on pity crossed his face.
“I’ll get around to it,” he finally replied. He then motioned a hand to the rest of his cubicle. “But, as you can see, I have quite the caseload.” He then leaned back again.
Rhi clenched her fists. Today was seriously testing her.
“Sir,” she said with as much force as still felt respectful. “I really think you should prioritize this case. People have died.”
Reg again stared at her with one eye. “That so?”
“Yes!” she nearly shouted but caught herself. “Sir, it is very important. I have been assigned as your assistant for this case. If you would like I can go over the facts for you.”
“Assistant?” he asked with an eyebrow raised.
“Yes, sir. I’ve done the preliminary investigation into the circumstances.”
“That so?” he said, leaning forward.
“Yes,” she answered, quickly growing weary of this man.
“Well, good for you,” he said and settled back into a resting position. “Showing initiative.”
Rhi’s fists were clenched so tight she could feel her pulse. What was going on? This man didn’t seem interested at all in the case, in any case for that matter, considering the state of his office. She wondered how anyone could get away with such a thing. None of this made sense. Hadn’t he read the memo? Should she report him? But the thought of going back to Mr. Freeman’s office filled her with dread. She had barely managed to convince him to let her take this case up. If she came back with the excuse that the investigator he had assigned didn’t want it, he might let the case go entirely, or worse, think she was making it up in order to pursue it herself.
She decided to wait the man out. It wouldn’t be the first time. Rhi could be annoying when she wanted, and when she didn’t. But she knew how to play the waiting game.
She stood for some time in Bullock’s office, staring him down, but to no avail. He simply lay there, looking to all as if he were quite soundly, and contendedly, asleep. In the waiting game, it seemed, Reginald Bullock was a champion. After close to an hour, Rhi finally left. Her shift had ended some time ago, and she realized she had had nothing to eat since supper last night. Her body and brain were crying out for food and rest in equal measure.
She didn’t bother heading back to the Patrol Office but instead went to the lifts. She had started to put together the true facts of the day. She made her way back up to the roof, mounted her broom, cast the appropriate spells with her wand, as it was daytime, and flew home. She landed on the balcony of her flat a few minutes later, disappointed and tired. Rhiannon stripped off her robes as she went inside, tossing them on the couch before heading to bed, where she flopped down, exhausted and utterly defeated.
She had a shift that night, a simple patrol, like her usual. It was uneventful, as they usually were. Rhi had learned long ago that if she wanted to do actual work she’d have to go looking for it, which she had, and she had seen where it landed her. All the while, during her flight, she couldn’t shake the image of Reginald Bullock tossing the files, her intricate, exhaustive work, onto a pile of identical papers, to be lost, forgotten it seemed.
It didn’t make sense, she told herself. Only it did, she knew. It made perfect sense when you considered the people involved. It made perfect sense when you considered that people were involved.
Still, it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t just, which was a key word for Rhi, a guiding principle. But not so much even to Rhi, that she didn’t care so much about, but the image that stuck with her was the mother of a dead boy, whose eyes were puffy from crying until she couldn’t anymore.
She made her way back to the Ministry around midnight. She went down to level two and was almost at her desk when she stopped. It was then that she remembered something, something she had learned long ago in a place she missed everyday.
The world wasn’t fair, all the more the reason to make it so.
Rhi turned on her heels suddenly and walked towards the Investigation Department.