Alvarez knocked on the open door and stepped into the office.
“You asked for me, sir?”
Dr. Gears looked up from the files on his desk, fixing his gaze on the young security guard. “Yes, I’ve been trying to contact Dr. Clef all evening, but he’s not answering his phone. I’d like you to locate him to make sure he’s all right, and tell him I have something urgent to discuss with him.”
“But sir, it’s Friday night,” Alvarez said, suddenly uncomfortable. “If you’ll recall…”
“Oh, I see. It’s his…”
“And he can’t…”
“He’s left instructions that he’s not to be disturbed under any circumstances, that’s right, sir.”
“Well, I suppose things can wait until tomorrow morning, then.”
“Very well, sir.”
Alvarez left the office.
Dr. Alto Clef sat in the dining room of his Site-19 suite. The place was lavish, by any standards – gold-embossed wallpaper, ornate oak paneling, 18th century furniture, the table set with priceless china and the finest silver. An antique Ming vase sat on a pedestal nearby, gleaming in the warm glow of the crystal chandelier; an original Caravaggio hung on one wall, a Vermeer on the other. Barry White played softly in the background.
“Mmmh!” Clef exclaimed, setting down his spoon and wiping his mouth with his napkin. “The fennel soup was exquisite. D-12130 really outdid himself tonight.” He gestured to one of the several D-class personnel in attendance. “More wine, D-23897.”
“Right away, Dr. Clef,” the man in the orange jumpsuit said, nervously stepping up to the table and refilling his glass with a particularly crisp Chardonnay.
Clef lifted the glass to his mouth, took a sip, and sighed with satisfaction. “This is nice,” he said, smiling at his guest. “We should do this more often, don’t you agree?”
Across the table, SCP-173 stared back at him, unmoving, silent.
Five D-class personnel were positioned around the living statue, their eyes fixed on it, cold sweat dripping down their faces as they struggled not to blink, not to break eye contact, not even for a second; a sixth man stood directly next to 173, trembling with terror as he lifted spoonfuls of fennel soup up to its face, smearing the contents where its mouth should have been.
“May I just say how lovely you look tonight, darling,” Clef said, his eyes moving appreciatively over the black evening dress covering the statue’s curves, the blonde, lustrous hair of the wig on its head, its rouged stone cheeks… “I was going to wait until later, but seeing you like this, I just, I… Heh, look at me, you have me babbling like a schoolboy. I don’t know what it is about you. You’ve always had that effect on me.”
SCP-173 looked on, its stone features blank, impassive.
“Anyway,” Clef said, “I got you a little something to show you how much I appreciate you being here, sharing this evening with me.” Clef reached into his pocket and took out a small flat box, handing it to D-23897, who was standing nearby; the man took the box and went around to the other side of the table, his heart rate rising as he approached 173.
“Open it, darling,” Clef said. D-23897 opened the box, revealing a gold necklace inlaid with dozens of small diamonds. “It should be the right size, I had it made especially for you. Go ahead, put it on,” Clef smiled. D-23897 removed the necklace from the box and reluctantly tied it around 173's neck, wincing as his fingers brushed against the cold, hard cement surface. Clef was momentarily at a loss for words. “It suits you to perfection,” he said at last. “God, you’re beautiful. I feel like I never want to take my eyes off you.”
At that precise moment, Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe began to play; Clef felt his heart flutter. “It’s our song,” he breathed. As Barry White’s rumbling voice filled the air, Clef found himself staring into 173’s alien, painted-on eyes, losing himself in their depths. “You know,” he said after a moment, his voice now little more than a husky whisper, “I’m suddenly not hungry anymore. What do you say we…retire…for the night?”
Clef was lying in his ample bed, 173 at his side, the lush satin sheets in disarray around them. The D-class personnel were standing in a circle around the bed, ten pairs of eyes that had not left the statue for the last two hours.
“I can’t tell you how much these little trysts of ours mean to me,” Clef was murmuring in 173’s ear. “Running Site-19, all that responsibility, all those lives depending on me, it gets so exhausting. You’re a miracle worker, you know. You really–” His train of thought was interrupted by a series of hushed whispers – two of the D-class personnel seemed to be having an argument. Clef cleared his throat loudly. “Do you mind?”
D-23897 snapped to attention. “I’m sorry, sir. It’s D-45931, he hasn’t slept in a couple of days, and he was starting to nod off. I told him he had to keep his eyes open.”
“Oh, I see. Well, actually, that’s not necessary.”
D-23897 frowned, confused. “But, sir, the statue…”
“I won’t deny she can be a feisty one, what with those fiesta states of hers, but as long as I’m around she won’t try anything.”
“So…there’s no danger?” D-23897 asked.
“That’s right, no need to worry.”
“Now, if that’s all,” Clef said, “I’d like to get back t–”
“Then why are we here?” D-23897 nearly shouted in disbelief. “Why did you make us stay?”
Clef gave the man a strange look, the hint of an unhinged smile playing on his features.
“I just like it when people watch.”
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