Benny hated assignment meetings. They were intolerable, as those selected for the lackluster jobs tried to squirm out of them. Today was no exception.
“I don’t see why I am up for this particular assignment, Julian. Doing a week of ride-alongs with the XIA is not my idea of scintillating reporting. What am I going to do? Get stuck in a black van for a week?”
The gathered reporters were all staring at her with amusement and relief that it wasn’t them.
“Benny, you have basic magic senses and two years of mage studies at the university. You are the most capable of seeing if the XIA is actually worth the money we have put in over the last fifty years or if the anniversary is celebrating mediocrity.” Julian rubbed his green-scaled hands together. “Add to that the fact that you are human and it makes you the perfect foil to the extranatural officers that you will be dealing with.”
Benny scrubbed her hands through her hair. “This isn’t a good idea. I just want to write the recipe articles and information on how to carve pumpkins for the best light distribution at Halloween.”
Julian drummed his nails on the table, and he let out a gust of air. “Do you want me to spell this out?”
He waved at the selection of reporters in the room and on displays. “None of us can pass for human, and therefore, the XIA would consider us a suspect if they forgot we were there for the article.”
Benny covered her eyes with one hand for a moment before glaring at the occupants of the room. “They don’t do that.”
Freddy was next to her, and she nodded. “They do think we are up to no good.”
Benny gave her friend a sideways look. “In your case, they are right.”
Freddy shrugged. “I have to be me.”
“Freddy, it is when you take someone else’s identification that you have a problem.” Julian sighed. “Right. Settled. Benny, you are on the XIA, and they are expecting you for the nightshift. Go home, get some sleep and take notes on everything you can. They aren’t allowing photos, but that is to be expected. I trust your memory and your common sense. Everyone else. As we have stated, get to it.”
He pushed himself to his feet and walked over to Benny, she turned so he was staring at her face. “Take care and don’t do anything that Freddy would do.”
From behind her, Benny heard, “Hey!”
“For a full week?”
“It is the fiftieth year of the XIA. It needs a full week of examination, and we are the only news agency they are willing to deal with. More to the point, you are the only reporter they are willing to deal with. Apparently, they like food.”
Benny nodded, grabbed her notepad and her tablet and got to her feet, topping the goblin by close to two feet. He didn’t have a problem being even with her boobs, and she didn’t even notice it after a few years.
Freddy linked arms with her and asked, “So, did you want to start happy hour a little early?”
“No. I have to run this past Mom and Dad. You know how they feel about the XIA.”
Freddy let out a gusty sigh. “Did you want me to come with you?”
“Nope, but thanks for the offer. I will keep you posted on anything interesting that you can investigate for the gossip column.”
“Appreciate it, Benny. Have a good night and don’t forget to write down anything interesting about the officers you are with.” Freddy wagged her eyebrows suggestively, and Benny sighed.
“I will consider it if there is anything noteworthy. I have never actually been in the XIA offices before.”
“Few humans have.”
Benny snickered and headed to her desk, leaving Freddy flirting with the copy guy.
She stuffed everything she needed into her bag and headed for the door. It was just past eleven, so her parents should be getting ready for lunch.
She called her father and warned him that she was on her way.
“Do you want some lunch?”
Benny smiled evilly, “Only if it is no trouble.”
“No trouble. See you in half an hour.”
“Love you, Dad.”
“Love you, Benny.”
She hung up and did a little dance. Her mother’s lunches were nothing to be sneered at.
Benny’s stomach was groaning happily as she finished her third course. Soup, salad and half a roast chicken had gone to the next life via her plate.
“You had better have room for dessert, Beneficia.” Her mother was smiling as she made the warning.
“I will be able to manage something.” She grinned, and her father grinned back while her mother went to get coffee. Her mom stared at her across the expanse of the counter. “Now, why are you here today, darling?”
“Now, before I say anything that will upset you, know that I am not pregnant, this isn’t about a boy and I am not being arrested.”
Her father sat back and drummed his fingers on the table. “I would be in favour of all but the last. You need to meet someone, pet.”
“I know, Dad.”
She cleared her throat and took the coffee her mother handed to her. “I will be spending a week in a ride-along with the XIA. I can’t get out of it and still keep my job.”
Both of her parents turned to stone in that moment. Two heads turned to look at her with horror in their gazes.
“You know how dangerous that will be for you, Benny.” Her father took her hand.
She gripped his calloused fingers. “I know. But it should be fine. I am just writing about their protocols and the division of departments.”