“Nikki. There’s a client up front that would like to have you look at something.”
“That is what Raymond was hired for.” Nikki said as she stepped away from the latest artifact that she was examining. “Why are you coming to me with this?”
“Raymond, isn’t here…” The woman, just younger than Nikki herself, shifted back and forth uncomfortably. “I thought you knew.”
Nikki sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose where her glasses pinched her. Two long years her father stood over her shoulder, nitpicking at her every move and training her to take the business, and now that he had finally retired did the staff think that they could retire too?
“Alright, don’t worry about it, I have it covered. However, could you call Carl in to finish this analysis? I need the results sent to the downtown lab as soon as possible.”
Even though Carl did come in and things still got done in a somewhat orderly fashion Nikki was still going to have to talk to Raymond about his absence. Calling in was one thing, but disappearing without a word was another. She thought about calling him on the way home but realized that it was probably best to calm down before she called a coworker at home to chew him out.
Instead of going through the front door, Nikki went around the back into her small backyard where she should have been greeted by a small dog named Gertrude. Instead she found hole dug under the fence.
“Oh, come on, Gert. I already have employees skipping out on me. Now you?”
“Hello, Nikki!” An older woman stood on her porch next door holding something in one arm and waving with the other. “Looking for something?”
Nikki smiled and made her way toward her neighbor as she noticed that the thing that the woman was holding was in fact Gertrude.
“Thank you, Mrs. Whitmore.” Nikki said as she opened the woman’s fence and walked up the short path. Mrs. Whitmore sat Gertrude down and she was jumping at Nikki’s feet before she even got to chance to get to the porch steps. “You must treat her a lot better than I do if she tunnels out of the yard to get to you.”
“Mom feeds her table scraps.” Mrs. Whitmore’s daughter, coming out their front door and down the porch steps, answered before her mother could.
“Oh hush,” Mrs. Whitmore waved the comment away as she shuffled back inside her home. “It wouldn’t hurt her if I did anyways. The thing is all skin and bones…”
“Table scraps. That’s all it takes to earn a dog’s love.” Jenna Whitmore stood next to her now.
“Really? Because I would’ve bet on things like shelter and loving it back.”
“Nope. Table scraps.” Her friend sat on the steps and Nikki joined her. Gert jumped into her lap the second she was seated. “And definitely not by naming a dog Gertrude.” She made a face as if the word itself tasted bad.
“Hey, Gertrude is a good name with meaning. Gertrude was a—“
“’A world traveler and famous archaeologist’. Yeah, you named her after someone who traveled the world. That was mistake number two.”
Nikki rolled her eyes but couldn’t stop herself from smiling. Jenna was one of the first people that she met when she moved here and really one of the only people that was around her age. Lucky for her they hit it off pretty well since she lived next door.
“Yeah, well, you still live with your mother.”
“Now you’re just being childish, Nikki.”
“Says the one who still lives with her mother.”
“Ok, I have a job you know. I could pay for things, but she doesn’t let me and I just don’t push the matter that much.” She waved her hands in front of her as if she could physically ward off the conversation. “We have better things to talk about than me living with my mother anyways. What do you think about a free trip?”
“Coming from you? I think of Craigslist and a ride in an unmarked windowless van.”
Jenna looked genuinely confused. “Have I told you about this then? It doesn’t matter. What matters is if your answer is yes or no.”
“But you didn’t even think about it. Hear me out. It’s for about a month with a group of people staying in a cabin and metal detecting the surrounding area. It’s going to be awesome!”
“So you want me to go on trip with a group of strangers to some secluded cabin to metal detect.”
“Nikki! It’ll be fun. Think of it like…” She could see the wheels turn in her friend’s head as she tried to find some way to make this sound appealing. “Like one of your digging trips! A survey!”
“Yes! Just think of the things we could find out there. I mean they’re looking for metal but they could dig up anything and then throw it aside. They could throw away history! And think of the things you could bring back. You could be famous. Like Gertrude.”
The dog in Nikki’s lap raised her head at hearing her name but then settled back down when no treats came out. A survey. It’s been years since Nikki has gone with her father on a trip to examine an area. To see who might have lived there once and what they might have left behind. Even if they didn’t find anything the possibility of it was always worth the trip to Nikki. Jenna knows that by the way Nikki would talk about these trips or about archaeology at all. Now she almost regretted bringing them up.
Jenna was looking at her hopefully then, before Nikki could even get one word out, screamed excitedly and nearly knocked her off the steps with a hug. This got a few barks from Gert who was quick enough to jump off Nikki’s lap before she was squished.
“Awesome! I’ll email the guy back right now.” Jenna got up and went to her front door. “Get your stuff together. We leave next week.”
“Mom already said she would keep Gert while we’re gone. You have nothing to worry about. I’ll call you later or something.” And she was gone.
Nikki collected her dog and made her way back to her house. Nothing to worry about? Apparently her job didn’t count. However, surveys counted as working which was made clear in the paperwork so…
Nikki took out her phone after she opened her front door and sat Gert down in the front hallway. It looked like it was her turn to go absent.