The color of cold

“I don’t think you understand, Mr. Hardwicke. Our deal is non-negotiable.”

He froze, his silver mustache twitching to the right.

“B-But Miss Roudeau, you must fathom how such an action requires our committee to…”

“To do what, precisely, Mr. Hardwicke?” She eyed him over her glass of scotch. He twitched again, this time his mustache inching to the left.

“…we were simply under the impression from our agreed communications…that is, initially-”

“Get on with it. Before I change my mind.” Her green eyes glistened and she arranged her black velvet gloves.

“…Miss Roudeau, I do feel obliged to inform you that this is a very serious matter! She is dangerous and cannot be trusted- her actions alone condemn her and to harbor her would certainly put our organization under intense scrutiny. Please, you must reconsider.”

She rose to her full height and stepped towards the window. Mr. Hardwicke was cast in her shadow. After a long draw from her cigarette, she paused before letting the smoke curl in front of her. The window reflected the diadem on her chest, hovering over the white sliver of her sternum. She tilted her head to give Mr. Hardwicke a side glance. Then a small smile.

“Richard, darling, you knew it would come to this. I am happy to accept your resignation tomorrow morning. What a dreadful way to end our budding acquaintance.”

A flush of rose crept up Mr. Hardwicke’s neck. His tone was heightened now.

“Miss Roudeau, I-”

She waved her hand and interrupted “Yes, be on your way, we don’t want our guests to wonder where you are, now do we?”

“I must ask you-”

“Richard, men do not ask anything of me, if that were so, I would not be here, and you certainly would not be here either.” She fixed her cool gaze on him before turning again to the window pane.

“Take your belongings from the office. I will send you the reimbursement by mail in a fortnight.”

Behind her she heard him pause, then the clumsy ruffling of him standing from his chair. His expression, from the reflection of the window, was pained.

“Miss Roudeau,” he said, almost too curtly.

“Mr. Hardwicke,” she responded to his gesture. His head dipped in a brief nod before turning towards the door. The click of the door knob was followed by a heavy silence. Atangana spoke after he closed the door after Mr. Hardwicke.

“You did not have to deal with him so harshly. He is a good man.”

“Kind, perhaps.” She replied, facing to him instead. “But who knows whether any of us are good.” Atangana looked at her with his dark eyes. She could have sworn there was a drop of disappointment in those deep wells.

“She is alive, Atangana, and for now we must bring her to us.” Her brow furrowed as she watched the snow fall outside. What used to be serene was now blanketed in soft snow. It would be cold outside, but she knew she had to leave this party.

As she strode to the door, she informed Atangana: “We will leave at dawn for the port. Make sure that our business is taken care of for two weeks. I will see to it myself that we are well-accommodated.” He nodded.

Before she stepped into the light of the hallway, he caught her off guard.

“Corinne. She will not know you.”

She could not turn to him.

“I know.”

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