Corbusier armchairs, a glass table with an orchid
arrangement on it. The windows opening onto a park were
of course just artful photorealistic paintings. My sleet-
drenched parka and worn boots did not fit the setting at all.
“Please sit down.” The man used the formal form of
address, rarely used in Finland. “May I bring you coffee or
tea?” “Neither, thank you.” I steered clear of unnecessary
stimulants while working. They just clouded my focus.
The man pulled a file from his briefcase and flipped
through the papers inside it. His face was pasty and pale,
his black hair oiled into place. His eyebrows had been
plucked into narrow streaks. His voice was low and
“Hilja Ilveskero, age twenty-eight. Graduated from the
Queens Security Academy in New York with excellent
marks three years ago. Employed privately by Finnish
individuals after graduation, but currently unemployed.
“My former employer moved to a company in Tokyo that
provides security services to its key employees. You’ll find
his letter of recommendation among my papers.”
The man smiled. “Of course, I have checked your
background. In today’s world one cannot be too cautious.”