Here is the thing she noticed about the ticket transaction: new boss used cash, slipping the bills into the slot and bending over to pick up the change and the three one-way tickets that had been dispensed. He put the change into his pocket and gave her and the giant each a ticket.
"Aw," she said, "you're not gonna be the man."
"He never is," said the giant. "He always gives me the ticket and I take care of business on my own."
"This has happened to you before?" she asked.
"Yeah," said the giant. "I apparently can't keep track of my wallet until I realizes it's right where I left it last."
"Which is where?" she wondered.
"At home on my dresser, of course," he said, shrugging. "It's a failing. I admit it."
"Why don't we just move on toward the train," said the boss, "and maybe discuss this when we get there." He was talking with his arms wide, his perfectly groom self slowly herding us in the direction of the platforms.
The giant nodded and moved slowly along, the boss on one side and she on the other side of him. They were a group but no one would ever place three so different people together. If the giant caught an eye, the giant was all they saw, neither her nor the boss. If the boss -- a fine male specimen -- was what they noticed, they might glance at the giant, but they'd go right back to looking at the boss in his fine suit, fine haircut, fine face and form. She could have been dancing naked and wielding a machete and no one would have seen her. It was the perfect situation for hiding in plain sight.
As they walked, the boss advised his experience from past trips.
"Our friend here," indicating the giant, "didn't lie when he said he would fall asleep and snore up a storm, so he'll be sitting by himself. The conductor will take his ticket fairly early on and the moment that's done, our friend knocks off and the noises coming out of him will haunt your dreams."
"I sleep with great sincerity," said the giant humbly.
"My friend, you should see a doctor," the boss told the giant, and then to her, "You're welcome to sit with me, but I like to sit on the upper level. I might make some work notes, I might check my answering machines, I might B.S. some suburban housewife who thinks she's everything and a bag of chips because she spent the night in the city with her cousin or her kids. They think they can get chummy with me because my suit's nice," said the boss. After a pause he added, "It is a nice suit. I'll give 'em that."
"And your skin looks totally approachable. You moisturize regularly, right? And get facials?" she asked.
"Good eye," said the boss. "I go to this little old lady near my house who's been an aesthetician for fifty years." He squinted his eyes and turned his face back and forth so she could see every part of it. "Nice work, huh."
She was about to answer when the giant changed the subject.
"ANYWAY," the giant said with emphasis. "Maybe she wants to sit with me. To hear my snores."
"When you're snoring on a train, people walking near the tracks as it's passing think there's an alien invasion. She won't have trouble hearing you," said the boss. "Sit with me and we can talk about your job. But he paid you a high compliment just then. He wants you to be by him."
"For protection," she and the giant said at the same time and then, "Jinx!" with great gusto.
This had been the best hour she'd had in years -- being upset when she arrived, being consoled by Lee, drinking three cups of coffee in less than sixty minutes, meeting a handsome man who thought she had a lot to offer, lying to her manager who hated her, and walking around with a giant -- that she'd almost forgotten why she decided to go to Mount Prospect.
"And what line of work am I in?" she asked.
They were approaching the tracks. Each track sign sounded out information for a different train line in the voice of a calm woman. None of them were synchronized and as they each sounded out the track number and train line, they overlapped and looped and overlapped again. It was like an art installation she'd once seen. She found the cacophony of the mundane announcements as thrilling as that long-ago art piece and this time she was getting to visit Mount Prospect on a train.
"Get on the train and you'll find out," said the boss.
"I really need to use the restroom," she said.
"Please use the one on the train," said the boss.
"If you use the train facilities, he'll be able to see how brave you are," said the giant. He whistled for emphasis.
She stopped in her tracks. Her coworker, Connie, took a suburban train every day from a distant suburb, a little over an hour in each direction. She asked Connie once about the restroom facilities. Connie was neither a neat freak nor afraid of germs but she blanched visibly at the thought of it.
"I've never had to use it," said Connie, "but I saw into one once when someone came out." Connie shivered and added in a whisper, her hands moving nervously, "I don't know what I'd do if things got desperate."
The men walked about five feet ahead and stopped, too, turning to look expectantly at her.
"You coming?" asked the boss while the giant grinned and tilted his head in the direction of the waiting train.
She had plenty of tissue and hand sanitizer in her purse. According to the disembodied art installation voice, the train was leaving in four minutes, the restroom was on another floor, and none of them wanted to wait for the next train.
"Yep," she said stepping forward. "Let's go."
Mr. King came from what seemed like nowhere but was probably the far end of the platform. He looked at the giant, he looked at the handsome man and was startled, and then he happened to look at her and he lifted his chin in concern.
"Hello there," said Mr. King. "Should I be worried?"
"No, Mr. King," she said. "Please don't tell anyone but this is turning out to be just the best day."
The giant and the new boss each shook Mr. King's hand and looked him in the eyes so he'd see their sincerity and that they weren't afraid for him to know them.
She shook his hand, too, and added, "Thanks for caring." His hand was soft and warm.
The three walked briskly toward their train and climbed on board, each wishing the conductor a good morning as they entered.