Word count: 1131
Summary: Some jobs are better than others.
Author's notes: Done for the 'lost' challenge at dresdenflashfic.
Some days I really hate my job. I was contemplating this as I came down the stairs in the morning, stretching out my sore, monster-fighting muscles. I was looking forward to a nice, relaxing, monster-free day. When I went to get the newspaper, however, I realized there was a woman pacing outside the shop door. Sighing, I went back upstairs to get dressed in clothes fit for business and answered the door, even though I normally wouldn’t open shop for another hour at least. One good thing about working for yourself is that you get to choose your hours. One bad thing is that you’re always the one who has to deal with the customers. I just can’t seem to take a day off.
“Are you Harry Dresden?” she blurted out, before I could even say hello.
“Yes,” I confirmed. “I’m -”
“I’m sorry to bother you this early,” she continued. “I know you aren’t open yet, but my father is missing and the police are looking for him, but he’s not really very well and I’m afraid he might get hurt before they find him and my friend told me about you once and that you helped her find something that was missing and I know he’s not something but -”
“Would you like to come in?” I interrupted.
She took a breath. “Oh. Yes. I’m sorry.”
I assured her that it was fine and got her into the shop and into a chair. She was prone to speaking in rapid bursts, like a machine gun going off. One burst explained that she was Moira Fisher and her father was Thomas McElroy. Another burst informed me that he was in early stages of Alzheimer’s and that he was prone to wandering off. Another burst added that she had woken up at 5:30 am and found him out of his bed and she hadn’t been able to find him. A final burst accompanied her shoving a watch at me and explaining her friend said I would need something of his to find him. In between bursts I could get very little in, but I didn’t have to. She interviewed herself.
I took the job, obviously. I couldn’t not take it. I got her phone number and address and sent her home, with the promise I would call as soon as I had anything. I didn’t want her machine gun talking to me while I was trying to do my spell.
My crystal took me across town into the park district and then into the middle of a playground. There was a man sitting on a park bench, the only one in the park at this hour. He looked pretty much like the picture Mrs. Fisher had shown me of her father. I went over and sat down next to him.
“Nice day,” I began.
“Bit nippy,” he replied.
“Yeah,” I agreed. I noted he still wore his slippers and wondered how he’d gotten there; if he’d walked or taken a cab. If it was the latter, I wondered if the cabbie had paid any attention to the guy or just ignored him and taken the money. “It’s a dry cold, though.”
He nodded and we sat in silence for awhile until he spoke again, “Do you have the time? I left my watch at home.”
I looked at my watch. “7:50 am.”
“I don’t want to miss meeting my kids here,” he explained. “They like to play here after school. I come over on my break.”
“It’s a nice place,” I said.
“Moira likes the swings.” He pulled out his wallet and showed me a weathered picture of a little girl who was obviously my client a few decades earlier. “That’s her. Isn’t she pretty?”
“She’s very pretty,” I agreed, with a smile.
He showed me another picture. “And that’s Brian and Rosie, my wife. We grew up together, around here. A few streets over.” He pointed. “She told me she was going to marry me when we were six years old and she was right. Moira looks like her.” I nodded. “You got kids?”
“No,” I said. “Not yet.”
He studied me. “How old are you?”
“You should hurry up,” he advised. “Women don’t wait forever, you know.”
I laughed. “I’ll keep that in mind.” At this point, I felt it was appropriate to introduce myself. I offered a hand. “Harry Dresden.”
“Thomas McElroy,” he replied, shaking my hand firmly. “Everyone calls me Mac.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said.
“Do you have the time?” he asked again.
“8:02 am,” I answered.
“I don’t want to miss my kids,” he repeated.
“You know what?” I said. “I don’t think school’s out for awhile yet. It’s sort of cold out here. I think there’s a coffee shop around the corner. I’ll buy you a cup. I wanna hear more about you growing up around here.”
He looked surprised. “Really?”
“Young folks never want to listen,” he said.
“Well,” I pointed out. “I’m not that young.”
I got him over to the coffee shop and bought a cup of coffee for each of us. I also requested use of the phone to call my client while I was able keep an eye on Mac. She didn’t let me get much out again, but said she knew where we were and she’d be there as soon as possible. In the meantime, Mac chatted happily about what the neighbourhood was like when he was growing up. He asked about me too, so I told him about growing up on the road and about the sort of work I did and about Murphy.
“She sounds like the firecracker sort,” he said, with a knowing nod. “They give you hell, but they’re the ones worth gettin’ in the end. My Rosie’s like that.”
We were so deep in conversation that I didn’t even realize Mrs. Fisher had arrived until she shrieked and scooped up her father in a hug, scaring us both half to death. Mac seemed very confused by her at first, unsure of who she was. He soon made the connection, though, and proudly introduced her to me. She and I played along and shook hands as though we hadn’t met before.
Mrs. Fisher bundled him up to go and fussed around him. He didn’t understand what the ‘to-do’ was about. He was just having coffee with ‘this nice young man’. Mrs. Fisher paid me when Mac wasn’t looking and we all said our goodbyes. I followed them out and watched them get into her car to go home. As I walked back to where the jeep was parked, I tried to see the neighbourhood the way Thomas McElroy saw it. The way it used to be.
There are some days that I really hate my job. Days where people die, or do incomprehensible things or when monsters try to eat me. There are some days, though, my Lost and Found days, when there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.