Bonus story: Into the Lion’s Den – part 2
Continued from Into the Lion’s Den – part 1
Daniel Gibson was everything that Svetlana expected. And he was nothing like what she expected. He was as handsome in person as he was on television and magazine covers, effusing charm and good humor. Gibson moved and spoke as a man who had been raised knowing his place in the world: at the top of it. His fine linen suit fit him perfectly; no doubt tailor made for him by some well known Italian designer or another. He was the public face of Triptych and he wore the power and prestige well.
“You’ll forgive me if I don’t know the proper protocol.” Gibson’s smile flashed his perfectly white teeth. He loosened the middle button on his suit jacket. “I’m afraid that I’ve not really been the first contact in one of these meetings before. Ashlynn’s mother typically handles this.”
“You haven’t had any say about any of the previous nannies?” Svetlana’s curiosity piqued. That was irregular and unusual in her experience. Even divorced couples shared the onus of choosing child care. She itched to look back at the child’s file, but didn’t dare. Right now, she had the power and the experience to feel this out. Natalie knew that; Natalie was counting on that.
Gibson’s smile broadened and the corners of his eyes crinkled. “I suppose that you could consider me the ‘second line of defense.’ Addison – Dr. Harris – is uniquely qualified in regards to the interview process.”
Svetlana exchanged a quick glance with Natalie. She listened to what Gibson said, but heard what he didn’t say. This matter wasn’t as simple as he made it out to be, and Dr. Addison Harris clearly was a woman to be reckoned with. Overprotective mother? First child? Probably a bit of both, but Svetlana would have to find her answers without checking the file a second time.
“You mean that Dr. Harris is a difficult woman to please?” Svetlana asked.
Gibson’s eyes widened briefly in surprise. The flicker of emotion was gone as quickly as it appeared, but it told Svetlana that she was right. Gibson shifted, his smile shifting into something a bit softer and less practiced. “You’re a sharp woman, Ms. Matlyn.”
“That’s my job, Dr. Gibson. For the sake of the children and the families that I work with, I have to be able to see the whole picture.” Svetlana crossed her legs and folded her hands atop the file in her lap. “I know this is irregular, but could I ask you a few questions?”
“Tell me about your daughter.”
Gibson shifted in his seat. It didn’t show on his face, but the brief hesitance before his answer told Svetlana that he hadn’t been expecting that question. “Ashlynn is . . . she’s thirteen months old. She’s healthy, a little bit above average on the height and weight charts. There are no mental or psychological disabilities that have been detected -”
Svetlana held up a hand. “Stop, Dr. Gibson, please.” Again, she gave another glance to Natalie. It was nice to know that people at Triptych could be as ‘normal’ as anyone else, but it didn’t seem like this particular case was different from any other. A difficult mother, a distracted and disengaged father and a child who needed affection.
“I’m sorry but,” Svetlana explained, “When I asked you to tell me about your daughter, I wanted to know what she’s like. Does she laugh? Does she have a favorite song? Does her face light up at bath time?” She’s a child, not an animal.
“I’m sorry.” Gibson gave a half-embarrassed chuckle. He rubbed the back of his neck, the overhead lighting reflecting off of the onyx and silver ring on his right hand. Svetlana caught the briefest glimpse of the Triptych logo imprinted there. “Did I mention that I don’t usually do this? I’m used to dealing in facts and figures, not subjectives.” His smile was apologetic, but it didn’t quite reach those green eyes. “Ashlynn is an absolutely wonderful child. She’s intelligent and courageous, she likes to climb and explore. She’s ahead of the curve on everything. She has a stuffed giraffe that she adores and takes everywhere with her and she hates bananas and peas.”
The words were the words of a loving parent. Gibson said them in the right tones, with the right smiles and chuckles, but still something felt off to Svetlana. His pride didn’t swell up out of him as though it would carry him to the ceiling and hold him there.
“She sounds delightful, Dr. Gibson,” Natalie smiled. She gave an encouraging nod to Svetlana.
“She does,” Svetlana agreed. “But I have to ask? Why so many different nannies?”
Gibson sobered and looked to Natalie. The woman behind the desk gave the man a professionally apologetic smile and an innocent shrug. “I’m sorry, but I didn’t have time to fully brief Ms. Matlyn before your arrival. Besides, I think that you can explain it better than I ever could.”
Natalie wasn’t the proprietor of a top firm for no reason. Her smile was guileless, but the moment the words left her mouth, Svetlana knew that her employer and friend had purposefully withheld information. Natalie wanted Gibson to brief Svetlana himself; and perversely she probably wanted to see Svetlana’s reaction as well.
“Yes, well.” Gibson straightened and cleared his throat. He tugged at his jacket sleeves and smoothed his hands over his legs. If he was annoyed at all about being put in the hot seat, he didn’t show it. “Ms. Matlyn, you understand that Triptych is the home to many people with varied and unique talents, correct? In our employ, we have psychics and witches and geniuses from all fields. Ashlynn’s mother is one of these people and Ashlynn has already shown signs of having inherited some of her mother’s talents.
“You see, Ashlynn is telepathic and telekinetic. And she doesn’t have a lot of control over either.”
Svetlana waited for the punchline. One never came. She looked to Natalie for confirmation. An out of control telepath/telekinetic who wasn’t even three yet?
Natalie gave her a knowing smile. “Is that going to be a problem, Ms. Matlyn? As I was telling Dr. Gibson, you’ve had such success with difficult children and difficult situations in the past.”
Oh Natalie, you bitch. This conversation had been mapped out and planned before Svetlana ever set foot in the office. She knew Svetlana better than Svetlana knew herself sometimes; Natalie knew that Svetlana wouldn’t back down once the gauntlet had been thrown. Svetlana forced a smile and turned to Dr. Gibson. “I think that under the circumstances, I wouldn’t want to go forth any further before meeting Ashlynn and her mother.”
Gibson nodded his agreement. “That can be easily arranged.”
To be continued . . .