didn’t have time to deal with Natalie’s sudden claim to employment so I met with the new client; a big lady with a fox stole. It turned out to be a typical case involving an unfaithful husband.
Fortunately for my bank account, cheating spouse cases go relatively quickly. I would follow the target for a few days and eventually observe him, or her, with the illicit lover. A few photographs later my job is done and the client makes a killing in divorce court.
This woman’s husband, a Mister Herman, was owner of the local dog track so I thought maybe I’d catch a few races when I investigated.
After we had discussed the case my new client said in a confidential tone, “Your secretary doesn’t look well, Mister Drake. Perhaps my doctor should see her. He’s really very good.”
She gave me the name of a doctor and I politely wrote it down. “Yes,” I agreed flatly, “it would be wonderful if he could see her.”
After I saw Missus Herman to the door I turned to speak with Natalie. She had already straightened out the secretarial desk and was trying to place some magazines under the typewriter to make it level.
“You hired yourself rather quickly.” I said.
“Well, this will help pay for my case if the money I gave you runs out.”
“What about your real job?”
“What about it?” She snapped with a touch of irritation. “Is there anything more hopeless than a fashion model that can’t be seen?” At that she gave the typewriter an unnecessary shove then sat back in the chair.
I knelt down beside her and put a hand on her sleeve. “Hold on.” I said. “Don’t give up. I’m going to do everything I can to solve your case. I’m going to find out who did this and I’m going to find a way to bring you back. You have my word on it.”
She looked at me with her sunglasses and her powdered face smiled. “You’re a good man, Mister Drake.”
I got up and went around the desk to sit in the guest chair. She watched me without speaking. Natalie seemed to be holding her breath. “Alright,” I finally said, “we can try this for a few days and see how it goes.”
She leapt from her chair. “Oh, thank you Mister Drake. You won’t regret this. I used to organize the books and periodicals at the library at my school and I can type 41 words a minute, and I can answer the phone, and if someone asks why I’m wearing sunglasses inside we can say I have a sensitivity to light.” She was talking faster and faster with great excitement.
“Well, yes,” I said, standing up. “I really do need someone to answer the phone.” I could only guess as to how many potential clients I might have missed since my last secretary left.
She gave me a quick hug and said excitedly, “I could just kiss you, Mister Drake.” I wondered if that was simply an expression where she came from.
“I like the idea of the light sensitive eyes,” I said, “and that would go well with albinism which we can use to explain your pale color.”
I gave her a spare key to the office and told her to arrive at half past eight the next morning.
Now I must admit that I had another motive in mind when giving Miss Taylor the job. I wanted to keep her close just in case there was a connection between her and the cat burglar. My instincts told me that I could trust this woman but I always backed up my instincts with investigation.
The next day I left my new secretary to sort my files while I explored her apartment. I had known what time her roommate went to her job and I knew they kept a hidden key. Unlike some of the ham-handed members of our police department, I knew how to search a place and not leave any evidence of the search. It was no surprise to me that I found none of the items attributed the cat burglar thefts.
I was now confident that I could take Natalie Taylor at face value.
By mid day I returned to my office and was very surprised. When I opened the door to the outer area I was pleased to see how clean and neat things were. I heard someone in the next room and found Natalie working at my file cabinet. She looked up and smiled. Her skin looked much more natural now but she still wore the glasses. I guessed that she added something colorful to the talc to give her the natural tone.
I also noticed how her pink blouse and gray skirt hugged her figure.
“Mister Drake,” she said, “I’m making good progress on organizing your files.” At that moment she took her hands out of the drawer and I saw into her hollow sleeves.
“Oops,” she said, “Sorry.” She turned to the desk where she had laid a pair of short white gloves and turned away from my sight to put them on.
“Miss Taylor,” I said walking around to my desk, “the office looks great.” She had cleaned up my office rather well and had even added a plant at the window.
I gestured to her hands. “You need not be embarrassed by that you know.”
“I have to be ready if someone comes to the door.”
“Well, yes, that’s true but when it’s just the two of us I want you to feel at ease. You should relax a little bit.”
“That’s very nice of you.” She said, “But I’d rather not bother you with my lack of appearance.”
“It’s no bother.”
“It’s alright, Mister Drake, you don’t have to pretend.”
“Yes,” she said a bit shyly. “I saw how shocked you were the first time we met.”
“That wasn’t shock.” I said, “I just wasn’t expecting … I had never seen …”
“It’s alright.” She said again, “I understand.”
“No you don’t.” I said and walked over to her. She became silent when I stood rather close.
Being so close I could speak softer. “Haven’t you heard the expression that beauty is only skin deep?”
At this she laughed. “Well, in my case it doesn’t even go that far.”
Then the telephone rang cutting off my next comment. I turned to pick it up but Natalie said that she should get it and ran to her desk.
“Jonathan Drake’s office. Oh, hello Doctor Morand. No, there’s been no change. Yes, I think my mood is improving.” I was glad for the last part.
“Yes, Mister Drake is here. Hold a moment please.”
“Thanks,” I called out then picked up the phone on my desk. “Drake.”
“Mister Drake,” the doctor said excitedly. “I’ve been searching for cases similar to Miss Taylor’s. I may have found something.”
As I was soon to learn, Natalie Taylor was not the first woman to become invisible.