L didn't speak until they reached the Society. A few times, Kale made feeble attempts at small talk to which she remained completely silent, causing him to throw his hands up in exasperation and complain about her stoniness. If she hadn't been cultivating such a hard composer, she might have laughed.
She led him up to the Society and started heading to the stairs, intending to take Kale to see P, her superior, when Elizabeth at the front desk called her.
L cringed. She was not used to people using her full name. It was policy at the White Mask Society to use first initials when referring to members in the field because of the dangers involved in their job. A relic of the old ways in an effort to maintain some semblance of detachment so if someone was killed in the line of duty, it might not be so hard to recover from the loss. Many newer members hated this rule. A few people used full names as an intentional show of dissension, but after the first friend was lost, they became less blasé about it. L had clung to this rule after losing her sister, Natalie. She had been a Guardian, five years older than L, and killed by a Haunt, the most dangerous and evil of all Deviants. The pain and anger L felt, and the way her parents changed afterwards, had committed L to the rule of only using first initials. So hearing Elizabeth - who as the receptionist was not beholden to the rule - use her first name felt like the deepest invasion of privacy.
"You have to check your guest in," said Elizabeth, her wide mouth stretched in a toothy smile.
"Of course!" said L. "I forgot. I'm sorry."
She scribbled Kale's name on the ledger at Elizabeth's desk.
"How do you know Lily?" said Elizabeth to Kale, who stared at her blankly.
"He doesn't speak French," said L, not looking up.
"Lily?" said Kale's excited voice. "Is that your name?"
Elizabeth switched to English without hesitation. (As the receptionist, Elizabeth had taken the time to learn as many languages as she could. She was - as of L's last tally - fluent in French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, and German, and currently studying Arabic.) "You mean you never told him your name?"
L sighed, willing Elizabeth to stop talking, to not engage Kale in conversation. But Elizabeth was insatiably friendly.
"Can you believe it?" said Kale, his best, most flirtatious smile plugged onto his face. L rolled her eyes. "She's been making me call her Jane."
"I'll never understand these Society types," said Elizabeth, clearly taken in by Kale's charm.
"Tell me more about these Society types," said Kale, leaning in, evidently loving the effect he was having, and trying to goad Elizabeth into telling him as much as possible.
"Don't!" said L, grabbing Kale's arm and dragging him away. "He's a reporter," she said in French to Elizabeth so that Kale wouldn't understand. "Don't tell him anything. I'm taking him to see P."
Elizabeth waved sadly at them as they started up the marble steps.
"Don't tell me you got jealous that I was talking to the receptionist, Lily," said Kale.
"First, I don't get jealous. And certainly not over conceited Americans who only help when it benefits them. And second, if you ever call me 'Lily' again, the deal is off. I'll find the bomber by myself."
"Gee, so touchy," said Kale. "What am I supposed to call you then?"
"Jane worked fine by me."
"I'm not going to call you Jane if I know your name is Li—" He quailed under her glare. "Fine. Just tell me what people here call you."
"Do they call you that because of your winning personality?"
"I'm not going to tell you what they call me because it's none of your business. You're not here to be my friend. You're here to tell us what you saw—"
"And for my story!" interjected Kale.
"—and my name, or what people call me, is irrelevant."
"You are legitimately the most stubborn and annoying person I've ever met," said Kale, who was panting now. "Did you know that? And my friend Tucker once drank an entire pot of salted coffee just because I told him not to. So, that's really saying something."
"I'm honored. Here we are." She led him away from he stairs, down a hall and to a door marked "Pierre Lefèvre: Head Tracker".
"Finally," said Kale. She could tell he was trying to mask how much the four flights of stairs had winded him, but he was failing.
L knocked, and after a moment, P's voice murmured "Enter," in French. She pushed the door open and ushered Kale inside.
"L," said P, looking up from a tablet. "Don't you have some subjects you should be tracking?"
"Yes," said L, still speaking in French "But I may have found a lead." She gestured to Kale. "He's American. He doesn't speak French."
Kale, who had recognized that he was being introduced, walked confidently to P with an outstretched hand. "Kale Robinson-Rain, Daily Planet. Pleasure to meet you."
P politely shook his hand, a bushy eyebrow raised in amusement, as L said, "P doesn't speak English. I will translate."
Kale nodded in understanding.
"So tell me," said P, looking at Kale and leaning back in his chair as L and Kale took their seats on the other side of his desk, "what this man claims to know."
L looked at Kale. "He wants amnesty," said L in French. Kale's brow was slightly furrowed. For the first time since she met him, he looked scared. "In exchange, he will give us a description of the Métamorphe he saw at the scene of the third bombing."
"He knows it was a Métamorphe?"
"No. He just said they looked suspicious. He's refused to say any more than that until I brought him here. And he wants first access to the story. He's a reporter."
"A little young for a reporter."
"He looks to be about the same age as me, P."
"Civilians don't often start as young as we do."
"Look," intercut Kale in English. "I know you're talking about me, I'm not an idiot. So stop. Please. It's rude."
"I'm sorry," said L, also in English, through clenched teeth.
"Is he prepared to offer what I want?"
L looked back at P. "What should I tell him?"
P gazed at Kale for another moment, sighed heavily, his fingers steepled across his lap, and said finally, "Tell him we cannot let him write a story that will expose our organization. But we can protect him."
"We'll give you amnesty," said L in English to Kale, "but you can't write the story."
"What? Why the hell not?" exploded Kale.
"There's too much at stake."
"Then no deal," he said flatly. He crossed his arms and looked stubbornly back and forth between L and P.
"He refuses," said L to P.
"Then I'm afraid we have a problem," said P. L translated.
"Look," said Kale. "Just tell me what you want kept secret and I won't include that in the story." L translated again.
P shook his head. "It's out of the question. We'd be giving a civilian full access to the Society,. This runs the risk of a full blown exposure. The public can not know about us."
L nodded and stood.
"I trust in you and the other Trackers. We'll find the Métamorphe in question without his help. Now, I believe you have assignments to be investigating?"
She nodded again and held the door open for Kale who was still sitting in his chair, mouth agape.
"Mr. Rain," said L.
Eventually, he got up still looking shocked.
When the door to P's office was closed, he said, "I can't believe you have so much to hide that you'll refuse an eye witness account. What is this place, anyway? This doesn't look like a police station? Are you like the FBI?"
"Don't get excited," said L as she started to lead him up more stairs. "I'm not turning down your offer."
"No. You're going to tell me what you know. And I'll tell you what you can write."