"Could you give this to Maximino before you leave?" Nick asked a short woman who was very lanky, even for a skeleton.
"Of course," she promised and took the papers as if they were made of gold. She shot a shy and openly admiring glance at Nick, but it made no difference to him. It didn't even sooth his self-esteem because having an ugly woman like Margarita admire him was worth nothing.
He had never understood why Maximino wanted to have such a terrible looking secretary. Nick thought that secretaries' main job was to look good.
He turned on his heels and left without saying anything else.
It felt a bit scary to leave such important papers to Margarita. It was the most important contract of the year, and the papers definitely had to be on Maximino's desk in a week. If something happened someone would feel rather uncomfortable, and Nick was sure it would be him.
Well, she can't be as pathetic as she's ugly, he thought to himself and left the office area behind him. Maximino had built it on top of High Roller's Lounge and everyone had a nice view to Rubacava from there.
He said good night to a colleague of his who was sitting in High Roller's Lounge, completely concentrated on some papers. The cigarette in his fingers was blown out, but Nick could still smell the thick smoke.
The other lawyer didn't reply and Nick wasn't surprised. He and Alberto were constantly competing and there was no room for any kind of friendship. Nick's earlier polite words had been merely a way to annoy the man.
It was a late night and High Roller's Lounge was surprisingly quiet. Distant music played in the background and lamps were dim. Almost every table was empty, there were only three other men besides Alberto. They sat in their own group and talked about something in quiet voices. Nick heard only a word here, word there.
There was one bright lamp in the lounge and it was behind Alberto so that he could keep on reading. Nick passed the man with a few quick steps and stepped in the elevator. At some other night he might have stayed to have a drink, but this time he was so tired he wanted nothing, but sleep. It was rare from him, it was barely past midnight and usually no one in Rubacava went to sleep before morning.
The night was cold and as dark as always. The sky was covered in clouds and he couldn't see a single star. A wind blowing from the sea made people outside hope that they had extra clothes on their suits and dresses. The night was not pretty and it was a bit too quiet everywhere.
When he walked past the Blue Casket on his way home Nick almost stopped at the door. Weak music flowed from inside and he heard words as someone read a poem. It wasn't Olivia, the rhythm was different. During the time had had known the woman Nick had learned to recognise her way of speaking, even if she was surrounded by several other people.
The Blue Casket must be almost empty as well, he thought as he walked past it. It would have been an excellent night to visit Olivia and escape the coldness of the night in her bed. But Nick didn't do it, and being tired was not the only reason.
Olivia had been very distant lately. The woman's touch was still as warm as before and she kept whispering the same taunting words to him, but her mind seemed to be somewhere else. Her words had an echo that almost convinced Nick of that she had another man.
A third one, at least. Nick had enjoyed Olivia since the beginning, but part of the passion had been that she was Maximino's girl. It had been fascinating to think that a woman, who was involved with such a powerful man, still wanted to spend some of her nights with him. It had soothed Nick's self-esteem and fed his thoughts about himself.
If Olivia had someone new it meant that she was no longer pleased with what Maximino and Nick had to offer. The lawyer certainly didn't like the thought.
Of course he had to admit that money and adventure certainly had something to do with the matter. Olivia grew bored so easily that it was a wonder she hadn't found someone else any earlier.
Nick didn't meet anyone on his way home. He was relieved when he could lie down and close everything from his mind. Whether it was Olivia, Maximino or work.
Or Olivia's new man.
Nick Virago slept and had no idea what happened that night.
"Oh no, I forgot!" she exclaimed and pressed her hand on her bony cheek. How could she be so stupid? "Now, where did I put them?"
She dropped her coat and started to go through her small case. There was only an hour before dawn and Rubacava was silent around her. Those who worshipped the night were already asleep and those who preferred day time hadn't woken up yet.
Margarita always went home at that time. Yes, she worked too late, but it was the only way to stay in Maximino's service. She knew better than well that with her looks she wouldn't keep the job without other kind of sacrifices.
All kinds of small items flew from her case as she went through it. Her lipstick rolled some steps away on the street.
"Ah, here they are," she sighed in relief when she found Nick's papers. For a moment she had feared she had lost them.
She would have to go back and put them on Maximino's desk before morning. Margarita would have rather died again than done something wrong and angered Nick. Thinking about the lawyer made her feel funny inside and she pressed the papers against her chest.
Yes, she was a fool and she knew it. A successful man like Nick Virago would never even glance at her direction.
But she still wanted to please him.
"I better hurry," she muttered to herself and gathered everything back in her case. Then she started towards the Cat Track to get there before Raoul closed the place. She had a key to the offices of course, but she didn't want to be all alone in the big building.
Suddenly she heard steps behind her and froze again. Margarita turned around slowly, afraid of what she would see. It was dangerous to be alone in Rubacava in the last hours of the night -- whether you were a woman or not -- and every night she feared she might face one of the shadier inhabitants of the city.
When she saw who it was she sighed in relief.
"Oh, it's you," she said. "For a moment I thought -- " she started, but never finished. Her jaw moved, but there were not words.
The papers fell from her numb hands.
"What are you -- No!"
There was a shot and Margarita screamed for the last time during her existence. Someone picked up the papers she had dropped, went through her case and left.
When Nick woke up it was already noon. There was a window right in front of his bed, and he could see the weather without having to get up.
It was foggy and it looked like it could start raining at any moment. Nick sat up and lit a cigarette. After sleeping and having some smoke inside him he felt much better. Now a glass or two of something, and he could go on for a couple of weeks.
No one cared at what time he arrived at work, as long as everything got done at time. Nick would have liked to lie in his bed for a while longer, but the worry of whether Margarita had taken care of her easy task or not forced him to get up.
His apartment was, to put it nicely, in an outrageous condition. Even though he always took good care of his looks and image, Nick Virago was not a tidy person. The floor was covered in clothes -- some less clean -- and papers, books, pens, cigarettes, ash and coffee mugs lay all around the place. Nick didn't really enjoy himself in the middle of it all, but he thought it was too tiring to clean his own mess.
It took a while before he found wearable clothes. Olivia wasn't wrong when she said he was not very good at finding things. It had always been one of his problems and Nick knew that cleaning the mess wouldn't have helped at all.
After taking care of the most important thing -- that he looked good enough -- he left to work.
His apartment was on the better side of Rubacava. He lived on rent, but because of the obvious reasons never let his landlord see the apartment. The man didn't mind as long as he got his money and the arrangement was fine with the both of them. Nick was sure he would have lost it if someone had tried to take control of his afterlife.
When he stepped out he was annoyed to notice that it had already started raining. It was a mere drizzle, but that was what Nick hated the most. The small drops tickled his skull and didn't do good to his suit. He hoped again that he owned an umbrella. Maybe he did, but just hadn't seen it under the mess in years.
When he got closer to the Cat Track he noticed that a crowd had gathered there. And most of them didn't fit it in the picture; a great amount of dock workers and other low scum were around.
Nick saw Chowchilla Charlie in the crowd and headed to his directions. The con artist was annoying as hell, but he always knew what was going on in Rubacava.
"What happened?" he asked as he reached the short man. Charlie took a cigarette from his mouth and stubbed it out under his shoe.
"I hate rain. It gives me bad luck," he muttered.
"I asked what happened," Nick pointed out sharply, and the other man lifted his eye sockets.
"Nick. I haven't talked with you after they no longer valued my company in this part of the city," he said. Then he nodded in the direction where everyone was looking at. "Such a sad event." Nick didn't think the con artist felt sorry for anyone.
"Someone was sprouted again?" he asked.
"Yes, and not just anyone. You must know Maximino's horrible secretary?"
"Yes, and I don't find it odd that someone wanted to get rid of her. I haven't seen such a woman in my entire life!" Charlie mouthed his opinion and took a new cigarette from his pocket. "Do you have fire? I am afraid my own lighter doesn't work anymore."
Nick borrowed his lighter to Charlie and made sure he got it back as well. The little man was not only a con artist, but a sly thief as well.
"It must be important if Bogan has bothered here as well," he muttered when he saw the police officer in the crowd. Charlie let out a voice of agreement as he inhaled smoke.
"Quite an interesting story, if I may say," he started. "Hey, don't you want to hear?" he asked as he noticed Nick had taken off in the direction of the entrance to High Roller's Lounge.
"I have better things to do than listen to gossip. Unlike others, I have a real job," the lawyer said leaving Charlie in the rain.
Actually he was interested in Charlie's story, the man knew exactly how to colour things to make them interesting, but Nick felt that something wasn't right and he wanted to take care of that before doing anything else.
He had given important papers to Margarita and the woman had been murdered right after that. Her fate didn't bother him and he didnít feel guilty, but a question kept nagging at him: had she given the papers to Maximino before her second death?
The best way to find out was to go and ask Maximino about it.
Unfortunately Nick didn't have the chance to do it because the office of his boss was crowded with people. There were several police officers and a huge amount of rich souls who wanted excitement in their boring afterlives. The lawyer stayed at the edge of the group in annoyance. Maximino noticed him immediately, but didn't have time to say anything to him.
"Why was she murdered?" someone asked and Nick had the exactly same question in his mind. Margarita had been ugly as sin, but even Nick didn't think it was a reason good enough to shoot her. There had to be something else going on.
"I don't know any more than you do. A sad thing to happen, and I promise to tell you once I know more. I also assure that you are all save here near the Cat Track. What happened last night was a mere exception," Maximino promised. Nick didn't know if anyone believed, but at least people started to slowly drift away, leaving him alone with his superior.
Maximino shook his head.
"We get advertisement because of this, but it's still a pity. She was a hard working girl," he said.
"But not very good for our image," Nick pointed out.
"Perhaps not. That's why I gave her the most distant office." Nick had to snort at Maximino's comment.
"Do you think they will arrest someone?" he asked then.
"Bogan will probably get someone, as usual. Now what is it that he always says?"
"'Round up the usual suspects', if I am right," Nick stated. "A good policy to keep his own record clean."
"I just hope this doesn't interfere without business," the lawyer said then changing the subject.
"Hardly. That reminds me, how are you doing with the Martonza papers? I want them on my desk before next Monday," Maximino said.
"They are almost finished," Nick lied swiftly.
After changing a couple of words with Maximino Nick headed for the office area. Things weren't to his liking, but he still had a way to repair everything.
He walked past his office and opened the door to Margarita's one. The lawyer stepped inside and looked around. Everything was in neat order and the room looked actually nice when the secretary wasn't around.
Nick didn't waste his time, but opened one of Margarita's drawers. If the woman hadn't given the papers to Maximino they had to be in her office. Nick didn't want to even think about anything else.
A quick examination showed him that the papers weren't there. Nick went through the room twice to make sure that he really searched every place. Finally he had to give up and admit that they weren't anywhere. Margarita's office was in such a tidy state that even he couldn't have missed a pile of papers.
There was only one thing to do.
Every good lawyer always took copies of all important papers. He had copies of the Martonza case and he would just have to work on them again. It would take time, but at least everything would be fine after it.
Nick left Margarita's office and closed the door behind him. Thankfully he was the only one around, even the workaholic Alberto wasn't in sight. He suspected everyone was talking about Margarita's fate.
The door to his office was locked, as usual, and he opened it with his key. Everyone who worked for Maximino had a key to the offices.
When he opened the door and stepped in everything seemed to be fine. Unlike his apartment, Nick's office was clean and everything was in a pretty good order. Of course, the fact that Maximino had a maid to clean helped things a lot. The only extra item on his desk was a coffee mug. The windowshades were down and the office was very dim.
Nick switched the light on and walked straight to his shelf. He drew out a dark blue map and went through the papers.
Nothing. Had to be a wrong map.
He took the next one, this time it was red, but the result was no better. Nick dropped the map on the floor in rage not caring that some of the papers spread on the carpet.
"They have to be here!" he muttered a cold feel creeping inside him. His movements became faster and more nervous, and finally he did nothing but dropped maps on the floor in his search for the papers.
He remembered how he had put the copies in the shelf. He had done it a bit earlier than giving the actual papers to Margarita. The memory was clear in his mind, and yet he couldn't t find the copies anywhere.
After going through every map and covering his floor with papers Nick had to give up. Someone had broken into his office, stolen the copies of the Martonza case and even murdered because of them. Whoever it was, and whatever was the reason, it meant only one thing to Nick Virago.
He was really in trouble.