Sunday, September 30, 2012

She Is Where, Part 14

The rooftop restaurant was on the 8th floor, added when the store wanted to impress the hell out of everyone by building something closer to heaven than any other eating establishment in the region.  Now, ho hum, the 8th floor, but it would take a while to ride slowly down on the escalator. 

When she got to the 7th floor, she realized the handsome man had not asked about the picture she took with her phone.  She popped the phone open and sent it to her email address.  Phone-to-email texts weren't included in her cheap data plan.

"Worth it," she said aloud.  No one else was on the escalator so she didn't have to make a sweet, purse-lipped face that said, "Oops, ya caught me talking to myself," even though she was pretty sure everyone talked to themself at one time or another and those who didn't had lots of people around all the time or were solidly nuts, so into their own heads that dynamite could not have gotten them out.

At the 6th floor, she thought maybe the giant saw her do take the picture and didn't word it correctly.  He didn't add that she was taking a picture of the back of the car, he just said advised that she was behind the car and Handsome bounded out of the car in pursuit.  Or Handsome didn't wait for Giant to complete his thought.  When he got back to the car, he probably would finish it and Handsome would come looking again.

This put her into a cold sweat and her stomach turned over a couple of times.  At the 5th floor, she left the escalator and ran past shoes to the restroom to wash her face and compose herself taking five minutes, which was five minutes more than she had wanted to spend composing herself.  She walked briskly back to the escalator and started walking down.

Coats were on the 4th floor and had been placed right by the escalators so everyone could see the value, the selection, the colors and styles.  She stopped and then walked toward them from the escalator.  She noticed two things:  a black, full-length wool coat in a reefer style with oversized lapels, large buttons, and a walking slit in the back and the sign above it that said 50% off, today only.

It was like a vacuum was sucking her over to the rack but the next thing she realized was when she was standing in front of a mirror, the coat looking excellent on her.  It was a perfect fit and she had a coupon in ther handbag for an additional $10 off.  She spun a little.  She twirled the opposite way.  She looked to admire herself again and saw Handsome in the background looking this way and that, like for a missing person.

She considered ditching the coat and racing out but this was a bargain that made her look slim and more fashionable than normal.  She quietly gathered up her things including the heavy plastic hangar the coat came on and went to the escalator, riding up one floor to women's shoes. 

"I am looking for my husband," she lied to the cashier.  "He said he was going to try to find me some new pumps and I don't see him.  Do you mind if I just pay you for this?"

"Well," said the cashier, "we're on commission and the coat salespeople really hate this."

"Oh," she said, crestfallen.  "I don't want to upset the applecart."

"Yeah, sorry, but they get a little annoyed," the cashier countered but added, "Unless you can tell me who was waiting on you.  I can call down there and get their number."

"Wow, thanks, I think her name was either Mary or Jo," she lied some more.  "Not young."

"Older lady?  Steel-gray hair?  Wearing a suit?" the cashier asked.

She had fleetingly seen a lady with gray hair in a red suit helping a tourist couple get the woman a jacket.

"Yes, that's her," she said.

"Mary Jo.  She's been here for eons.  Let me see if she'll answer," as she picked up the phone and dialed four numbers.

Seriously, this woman should have just told me to walk back down there and pay for it on 4 but she knew the store had a customer-is-mostly-right-except-when-the-customer-is-not-right policy and she didn't want to push it but if she had to, she would.  Besides, the action was in coats today and not shoes so she had time.

"Mary Jo?  It's Kylie in Shoes.  Say, I have a lady up here who has a coat she'd like to pay for up here.  Can you please give me your employee code and you'll get credit?"  The cashier listened.  She didn't move her pen to write down any numbers.  Kylie looked at her and started speaking again.  "Yes, that's right.  Uh huh.  Yes.  I'll tell her.  Thanks, Mary Jo."

She hung up the phone.

"Mary Jo said your husband's down there and looking for you," said Kylie.

She paused and tried to not look panicky.

"So you can't ring up my coat?" she asked.

"Sorry, no.  Mary Jo said your husband had out a roll of cash and wanted to pay for it right then but she told him we need the SKU number on the coat," Kylie advised.  "It's just down the escalator and around the corner."

"I would rather pay for it myself.  He's been a little too indulgent with me lately and I want to get something out of my own bank account," she lied to Kylie.  "It's a matter of pride," she added as she tilted her head and grinned, her mouth dry from fright.

"I can understand that," said Kylie.  "To heck with it.  I'll take the heat if someone gets mad."

Kylie took the pricing gun and rang up the coat, took her cash -- Handsome had taught her this fundamental lesson -- and coupon and folded the coat up and apologized for having to put it into a boot bag.

"The nice hanging bags are in the coat department," said Kylie.  "I am sorry I have to fold it up."

"You did a beautiful job, Kylie." she said.  "Thanks for your efforts.  I can wear my coat and hold my head high."

She grabbed the bag -- really quite heavy as it was a lot of fabric -- and quickly made her way to the elevator.  Hoping for the best, she pushed the down button and it came quickly.  Amazingly, no one was on it.  Again, hoping for the best, she pushed 1 and the doors slid shut.  The stars aligned perfectly and it went straight down to the first floor.  She walked briskly to the exit and when the chilly fall air hit her face, she let out a gasp.

"Woof!" it sounded like she said.  She regained her composure, hailed a cab, and told the driver the address of her dermatologist.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

She Is Where, Part 13

The rooftop restaurant was stuffed with patrons at almost every table, even though it was past lunchtime.  There were windows on three sides, giving a great view of what must have been a view of the skyline at one point, but the surrounding area had been built much higher so now one had a choice of which building to look into.  The furnishings were very fine, seeming to be imported from Europe but, in reality, some fine examples of North Carolina furniture artistry.  The fabrics were lovely chintz, exploding florals like an eruption at a botanical garden had spewed the flower all the way downtown.  Tourists loved the place for its of-another-era style, and old ladies, gay couples, and nostalgic locals felt the same way.  Personally, she didn't like the place.   It was stuffy and the uniforms on the staff never seemed be quite clean enough.  It suggested the company knew it was going to close sometime soon and these uniforms would have to do until then.

She chose a table by the eastern windows.  Once she was having a late afternoon snack on a Saturday with her sister and since it was early in the year, it was dark outside and the lights were on in the offices across the way.  When she glanced over she saw a man and woman kissing passionately.

"Oh," she nonchalantly said to her sister.  "Looky there," she said, tipping her in head in the direction of the lovers, wishing to be cool and not look there again.

"OH!" said her sister with great excitement and then,  "Looky again."

The couple's clothes were coming off and she and her sister were treated to two people of middle age and questionable physical shape about to share something special on the desk.

"Check!" they called out simultaneously and laughed like they were insane.

This was the same view but today's light of day wasn't affording her a view into those offices but it didn't stop her from scanning anyway.  She wanted to smile and that would do it.

"Can I get you anything?" asked the voice.

She answered before she could look at the voice, still looking at the building.

"Yes, might I have some hot tea, please?"

"I'll treat if I can join you," said the voice.

She snapped her head to see the handsome man pull out the chair across from her and sit down.

"Why did you leave that other building?  I looked for you and waited around and never saw you again."

"I got transferred to another office."

"Your idea or that manager who hated you?" he asked.

She was being very calm, much calmer than she thought she could be.

"It was the idea of his boss' boss.  They needed someone with my skill set and it worked out great," she said.  "Everything is better.  My new boss is quite sane."

"Interesting," he said.  "You would have loved working for me."

"Doing what?" she asked.  "And why does the giant drive such a puny car?"

"The giant!  That still kills me.  He liked it, too," he said.

"What was the job?" she asked.

His eyes went into slits and he leaned forward and opened his mouth to speak.

"Sorry to keep you folks waiting.  What can I get you today?" asked the pleasant and not young waitress.  There was an old tomato-sauce stain on her right hip.

"I would love some hot tea," she said.  "And an extra pot of hot water, please."

If she couldn't have a weapon, some thrown hot water just might save her.

"Nothing for me, doll," said the handsome man.  "I have to go."

He stood up and took his wallet from his jacket pocket, pulling out a ten dollar bill.

"This will take care of my friend and something for your trouble, okay?" and handed the waitress the money.

"Do you need change, sir?" she asked from habit, knowing that he didn't.

"Don't hurt my feelings, doll," he said and smiled his handsome man smile.

Before he turned to go he leaned into the table and said to her, "We'll be in touch."

"In touch how?" she hissed.  "Why?  To do what?"

He smiled his smile again and then his eyes got cold and hard.

"Me to know, you to find out," he answered.  Then he turned and walked quickly to the elevator which one of the suburban types was happy to hold for a handsome guy in an expensive suit.

The tea came almost instantly, the waitress efficiently presenting the two pots of water, the napkin and flatware, and the little silver tray with the sweeteners, milk, and lemon.

"Is that your boyfriend?" the waitress asked.

"No," she replied.

"Your husband?" she queried.

"Not that either.  Not my boss, my coworker, my associate, my friend, my cousin, brother, or son.  I don't know who the hell that is.  He just keeps turning up and talking to me."

There she had said it.

"Have you ever seen him before?" she asked the waitress.

"No, I can't say that I have," she answered.  "He looks good but his eyes were very cold.  I didn't want to say anything in case you were close."

They stared at each other.

"He thought he was being warm and generous," said the waitress, "but he was just being generous.  That kind of generosity doesn't mean a thing."

She stared at the waitress and got tears in her eyes, something that happened when someone so completely spoke the truth.  The waitress saw her eyes were filled with tears.

"You forget it," said the waitress.  "Just go about your business.  You're okay."

The waitress walked away from her and she put each teabag into each pot of water.  She put some milk into the cup which cooled the tea so she could drink it quickly.  She took the napkin and dabbed at her eyes, sopping up tears and some of her favorite drugstore mascara.  She was no longer in the mood for a handbag and didn't want to stand and try on coats.  She didn't much want to be perused and snipped up by a dermatologist but she'd waited a few weeks for the appointment and didn't want to miss the opportunity.  She drank down several cups of tea, left another couple of bucks for the waitress, and headed to the elevator.  If someone saw her coming, they didn't try to hold the door for her so she decided to take the escalator all the way down.  As she slowly descended she thought if she got a glimpse of the coats then she might change her mind and get something in spite of her feeling of dread.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

She Is Where, Part 12

Of course, she should have just ignored him, walking with the crowd and acting like she'd not seen him but she still would have gone into this building with the two side entrances.

Which to take?

"Screw it," she said aloud, but no one gave her a second look because it's a city, people are crazy in cities, and no one wants to get involved with crazy as it might be contagious.  She turned around and went out the front door and continued up the street to store with the nice handbags which she'd peruse before going to look at the coats in the other store.  It was two blocks and she knew the giant was long gone or would be by the time he got done dealing with one-way streets going the wrong way and nonexistant alleys.

The giant might have been long gone but it was getting toward the end of the year and everyone wanted to use up their remaining personal and vacation time.  She found herself sharing the sidewalk with her soon-to-be-former boss.

"Well, fancy meeting you here," he said.

She looked at him and was about to say something clever like "Uh huh," or "Yeah," but instead let out a giant belch.  From the depths of she knew not where -- although her lunchtime jumbo hot dog with raw onions, fries, pickle wedge, and a giant Diet Coke might have had something to do with it -- and she had the good sense to look embarrassed, which she was.  She managed a small grin and took a tissue from her left pocket, always keeping a tissue in her left pocket, and dabbed at the corners of her mouth and then used it to blow her nose in earnest.  She stuffed the tissue back in the left pocket and tipped her head to the left, grinning insincerely.

"Oh my goodness," he said.  "You don't seem well.  Are you on the way to the doctor?"

It wasn't a lie.  Her new manager knew she precisely where she was going and approved.

"I look forward to seeing your new things," said the woman manager.  "I just love new coats and a handbag you like is so important."

She had a handbag obsession so a new one wasn't so much important as feeding the addiction.

"If I am successful I will wear them both tomorrow," she said.

"Good luck with the dermatologist.  I hope they don't have to carve you up.  My husband goes regularly for carving.  His doctor is an absolute artist," the manager told her.

She knew it was nothing serious and told the lady manager this.

"But you never know," the woman said, "so if you need to recover tomorrow, I'm good with it.  You've got lots of time left and overtime, too, that you can tap into."

The woman manager was terrific and sane, generous and thoughtful toward her employees.  Every day was Christmas in comparison to her former situation which was now sharing the sidewalk with her.

"I am on the way to the doctor but I need to make a stop first," she said although it was none of his damn business.

"I'm on my way to the doctor, too," he said.  "I have something mysterious on foot and I need to have it looked at before I go home for the holiday."

"So you're going to the ..." she started.

"Dermatologist," he said. "Yeah."

He told her where and it was in another part of town, near his apartment.  She'd always gone to physicians downtown because, while inconvenient, they were much better doctors.

"I think I need to duck into that store over there and use their restroom and maybe get a bottle of water in their food court," she said.

"That's a good idea," he said.  "I have to get a bus.  I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving," he said, sounding like he meant it.

"And you," she said.  She did not mean it.  She almost hoped his giblets were rancid.

"Yeah, going to see my mother," he said.

"Ah," she said.  "Bye for now," and she turned and walked purposefully away from him.

She walked with her head down thinking it had really been old home week for people she'd not wanted to see and when she looked up she almost ran into someone.  His topcoat was the most beautiful wool she'd ever seen and his haircut was perfect.  He was the handsomest nonactor she'd ever seen and he was just as handsome as the last time she'd seen him in Mount Prospect.

It was all too much for her and she bent over and threw up, pulling the tissue from her left pocket and wiping at the emissions around her mouth.

"Let me give you this bottle of water," a woman with a high voice said.

She straightened to take it, happy that she'd barfed on no one's shoes.  Mrs. High Voice pulled a bag of air temperature water from her bag and gave it to her.

"Are you okay?" she squeakily asked.

She walked over to the curb, opened the bottle, rinsed the water around her mouth and spit it into the street, something she repeated two more times as the woman watched.  She took the rest of the water and poured it over what happened to break it up.

"Here, let me tell the guard to send someone out with some litter," said Mrs. High Voice, and ran into the building entrance by the accident point.

She didn't want to leave without saying thank you so she just looked at the door.  She was too afraid to look to see if the handsome man was still there but finally mustered up all her courage and scanned the area.  He was at the corner, getting into a flesh-toned Fiat 500.  She gasped.

"The guard's coming out with something," said Mrs. High Voice.  "Now can I help you get somewhere."

She was beginning to lose her desire to get that handbag and winter coat.

"First, thank you.  You have been so kind.  Second, I think I'm just going to go into that store and sit in their restaurant and get some hot tea," she told the woman.  And also a handbag, she thought.

"I can walk you over," the lady offered.  She thought that voice might drive her crazy but it probably drove the woman crazy, too.

"If I inconvenience you further, I will be embarrassed," she told the lady.

"Then I wish you a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving," the lady told her.

"I wish you the same," she said.

"There is much to be thankful for," said Mrs. High Voice.

"Barfing on the street isn't one of them," she told her.

Mrs. High Voice smiled.

"True enough," she replied, turned and walked away.

Hot tea sounded like a great idea.  And a black and white calfskin hide crossbody hobo with an outside pocket sounded good, too.  She headed up the street and took out her cell phone to send Lee a text about meeting for coffee on the weekend.  At the corner, just a few feet up from the light, the flesh-toned Fiat 500 sat with the blinkers going, two men inside who seemed to be chatting and looking in the rear and side view mirrors.  She changed the mode of the phone to camera, walked boldly to the back of the car, took a picture of the license plate and did something she'd not done since she was 26:  She ran.  It was more like a weird, lumbering gait, like something you'd see when the colossally unfit tried to get somewhere fast which is pretty much what this was.  If they'd seen her take the picture -- the giant and the handsome man -- she didn't know.  She burst into the store and headed to the rooftop restaurant.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

She Is Where, Part 11

Because she'd neglected to buy a train ticket ahead of time in Mount Prospect, she had to pay a penalty along with the price of ticket.  Like the handsome man, her almost boss, she paid cash.  She stared out the window all the way back into town and because it was a non-rush hour, it was as local as local could be, stopping in places where sometimes no one got on or off, giving her a lot of time for staring and heavy-duty thinking.

When the train pulled into the station, she had already decided that the first thing to do would be to find Mr. King and tell him what happened.  In his former career, Mr. King was a military policeman in the Army and he was very good at scoping people out.  He'd once told her he made a particular loop of the public area's of the building looking at everything that needed to be seen so if she went in the area where he walked, he would eventually come by.  Fortunately, it didn't take long.

"Hey, stranger," he said.  "I thought you went off on the train with those two gentlemen."

"I did," she said, trying to sound calm.  "But now I'm back and I've got questions."

"Go ahead and ask," he said.

"Have you ever seen those two men before?"

He thought for a minute, pursing his lips and squinting his eyes, but never taking his eyes off her.

"No, I never have," he replied.  "That one man was immense with kind eyes.   That other one, the handsome one, he knows he's handsome and his eyes were cold and they tried to be sincere, but he's not a sincere person."

"You got all that from a handshake and a look in the eyes?" she asked.

"You know it's been my job since I was eighteen years old," he said.  "You know I like the work."

She sighed and hunched a little.

"I know, Mr. King," she said.  "You just confirmed half of what I thought."

"Half?" he asked.

"I thought the giant was probably cold, too," she advised.

"No, I don't think so.  The big guy is way too scattered to be a criminal," Mr. King stated.  "He might be able to rip a phone book in half, though, but the phone book would have to be provoking him."  He paused.  "There was another question?"

"Yes," she said.  "Do you have tapes of the public areas?"

"I will neither confirm nor deny that," he told her, pulling out a notebook.  "I am making note of today's date and your name and I am writing handsome man and big guy.  Just in case."

"You know my name?" she asked.

"If I don't know your name -- and I know your name -- then I know how to get your name.  So don't you worry.  Do you want to tell me why I should be concerned?  Just the facts, now."

She told him what happened as succinctly as she could.

"Sounds like a bullshitter, pardon my French.  Weird.  I didn't think he was a killer.  The big guy?  Nothing criminal there.  The thing in the tiny bag?  There probably was a thing in it.  The big guy is not a moron.  Good thing you ditched them," he assessed.

"Good thing I didn't get pushed in front of the train," she said flatly.

"He wasn't going to do that.  Too many witnesses.  That's a busy area.  He wouldn't have been able to make a clean getaway," Mr. King said.

She breathed a sigh of genuine relief.

"But," said Mr. King, "I'll keep an eye out for them and if I see them, I'll watch them."

"Thanks, Mr. King," she said.

"You know I watch out for tenants," he said with a smile.

Since fate and the 11:19 had delivered her back to her place of business, she decided to go upstairs and face the situation head on.  In her case, that meant ignoring it and hoping for the best.

"Oh, you're here," said her manager with his usual lack of enthusiasm for her.  "Betsy wanted to see you but I told her you called in sick.  Her jaw dropped when I told her.  I guess you might swing by her office before you start work."

From his expression of smug self-satisfaction, she could tell he was hoping she was in serious trouble.  Betsy was the office vice president and usually only saw people to deal them a harsh blow.  He always forgot that she and Betsy had worked together at another job and had been friends for 21 years, something she never flaunted to anyone.  She told him okay, got up, and walked over to Betsy's office on the other side of the building.

Betsy was surprised to see her.

"Oh!  I was told you were sick," Betsy said.

"I thought I was too, but I guess it was just a short bug," she advised.

"Good, listen, I am hoping you can do something for me.  You know they just started up that new office on the other side of the river, right?  Well, they did a lousy job of hiring and they need someone with your skillset.  Would you mind going over there and helping them out for a few weeks?"

She looked at Betsy as if she were seven years old and it was Christmas morning.

"Yes," I said.  "Do you want me to go next week?"

"No," she said, "I want you to go there now.  And if you like it and they like you, then maybe you can stay there.  They really had no idea what they were doing when they hired the crew they have."

She had applied to work at that location but had been refused with a letter that stated there were too many solid applicants.  What had happened was that they'd hired everyone who had worked together in another office that had closed.  They worked well together but the new office gave challenges they'd never dealt with and they were failing pretty miserably.  She, on the other hand, had vast experience working with everything.

"Take just what you need for the next few weeks and if you stay, you can come over here and pack up everything and we'll send it over," Betsy said.

She walked back to her desk, said a vague farewell -- "I'm off to work on the other side of the river." -- and took her two favorite pens, her work binder, coffee cup, and leather coaster with the deep coffee stains.   Her manager glowered at her and she grinned sarcastically at him.  She turned and walked over and told Lee to stand up so she could give him a hug, whispered what happened in his ear, making him squeal "Boo Boo!" in her ear with delight.

"Call me tonight," said Lee.

"I will, Boo," and she ran out the door, down the street, and over the river, where the new office really did need her and she ended up transferring.

She called Lee and told him about what had happened -- no doctor and keep it to yourself for a change -- after Lee had gone up to the office.  He attributed the handsome man's reaction to being a handsome man.

"Handsome men aren't often refused," he said.  "Who would turn him down?  How handsome was he?"

"He was the handsomest man I've ever seen in my life," she said.  "He was movie star handsome."

"Yeah, no one ever tells him no," said Lee.

"Boo, why didn't he tell me his name, his business name, anything tangible?"

"Handsome men don't have to," he said.  "Or don't feel like they have to."  After a pause.  "How handsome?"

"Boo Boo, are you going to be dreaming of how handsome and touching yourself?" she asked.

"Stop it!  I don't touch myself when I think of handsome men."

"Liar!" she said.

"I have to know how handsome first," he countered.  Then they both laughed a particularly loud laugh they both only used when together and she changed the subject to the new job.

Days passed, and months, and Halloween came and her new manager had a Talk Like Bela Lugosi Day and gave out prizes for the best Lugosi, male and female.

"Costumes are intimidating," the new manager said,  "but accents are just stupid fun."

They were still waiting to get final approval for her to work in that office permanently but until that happened she refused to go to the old office and get what was left of her things.  She took a different mode of transportation to work and never had reason to go to the train station, eventually putting the handsome man and the giant into a remote corner of her brain.

Thanksgiving was the next week and she took an afternoon off to go buy a new winter coat and visit her dermatologist about a particularly ugly skin tag on her neck.  She had time and decided to walk, talking a route that would take her to look at handbags before she got the coat.

She was waiting for a light to change when she saw the giant stuffed into a flesh-toned Fiat 500.  The back seat looked like it had been removed to accommodate the front seat being customized back further.  Her eyes were like saucers and she hoped he didn't see her.

But of course he did and he honked and waved.

"Hey," he yelled as he rolled down the window, looking stern.  "Where you working now?"

"A different office," she said, the crowd pushing around her.  "Sorry, I have to go," she told him, her mouth dry from fear, and she joined the crowd crossing the street, ducking into a building that she knew had two side entrances.

She hadn't thought to get his license number.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

She Is Where, Part 10

It was pretty stupid, saying gezundheit when a bottle of liquid makes a rude noise, but they both laughed like it was hysterical.

"Now I'm a lemon foundry, too," said the boss and sat back in his chair, then asked her, "So what have you noticed today?"

"You do business like you're a spy or a hit man.  In the restaurant you wanted to face the door and not be too close to the restroom.  You don't deal in names -- you never asked me my name, you didn't tell me yours, you didn't tell me the giant's name ..."

"The giant!  That's rich!" he interrupted her to exclaim.

She immediately jumped back in.

"You didn't tell me the giant's name and when Mr. King asked if he should be worried, you both shook his hand and looked him in the face but you didn't offer him your names either.  Like you weren't concerned that he was seeing you because he'd never see you again so it didn't matter.  You paid cash for everything, even the train tickets.   You have yet to offer me a business card with the name of your company and you keep telling me all the great things about working for you in magnificent generalities -- a company car, great healthcare, good salary -- but have offered nothing tangible like my duties, what kind of business if is, and why you would be so generous with a total stranger."  I paused and looked the handsome man with the beautiful suit up and down.  "And what was in the little plastic bag you gave the giant?"

"That's the basis of my business, the contents of that bag," he said.  "That's how I make money."

"For all I know," she said, "there was nothing in that bag but a piece of tissue paper that had been cleverly folded to look like something."  She paused and advised him, "I remembered a line from '30 Rock'."

"'I want to go to there'?" he asked, trying to show how hip he was.

"No," she replied with a head shake.  " 'Never go with a hippie to a second location.' "

They looked at each other.

"And a line a co-worker likes to throw out -- if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

The face of the handsome man suddenly became hard, like all the effort fell out of it, and his eyes turned cold.

"So what are you accusing me of?  Are you calling you a liar?" asked the boss.

She didn't think she was accusing him of anything.  He asked what she'd observed and she'd done so with pinpoint accuracy.  She didn't realize that this was not what it seemed until he asked her to say it out loud.

She never knew what her face was doing.  She thought she knew but was presented with photographic evidence mostly to the contrary.  She tried to keep as neutral a face as possible but something always betrayed her -- an eyebrow, her lower lip, the way her eyes had gone suddenly wide.  When he paraphrased what he'd just said, she knew she'd managed it.

"Am I a liar, then?" he demanded again, sounding insulted, his voice hissed out.

"Sir," she said.  "I don't know who or what you are.  I don't know if you are sincere or otherwise.  I know nothing about you as you've honestly told me nothing.  About the only thing I know for certain is when the train gets to Mount Prospect and I leave this train with you and the giant, I don't think I will ever be seen or heard of again.  It won't matter if the conductor or Mr. King saw me with you because I don't think you or the giant will ever be anywhere near these parts again.  But that won't matter because I will disappear without a trace and the mystery of my disappearance will never be solved."

They looked at each other, she taking in this handsome man, now so annoyed, and he looking at, well, her.  She got the better part of that deal but it was making her feel a bit sick but not enough to stop talking.

"I really did think that meeting you was my lucky day.  You nailed my work problem on the head and  you noticed how I take my coffee.  But you could have planned all of that in advance -- what type to look for, how to talk to that person, how to appeal to any fundamental concern.  You can be an intuitive person and still be a louse.  One minute ago I had no idea but I put it all together as I said it out loud and then it just sounded like a giant rouse and if I pursue it, I am a big dope who deserves to have a giant snap her neck like a twig."

His eyes were slits and his mouth was a line of anger.

"So I have to advise that no, I will not be joining you in Mount Prospect," she said with finality.  "If it's a real job then I can come for an interview tomorrow."

"You know I work virtually," he said.  "The world is my office and I go where my customers are when they need my products."

"Which are what?" she asked.
"If you won't believe me, then I am not going to convince you it's so," he said.

"Just tell me your first name," she implored.  "And the name of your company."

The steely look was all she got as the train slowed coming into a station.  The handsome man stood up slowly.

"Tell me the giant's first name, then."

"It's about trust," said the handsome man.

"Yes, it is," she answered.  "I don't trust you."

He turned and made his way down the aisle to the stairs and out of her sight.  She heard the death rattle of snores suddenly stop and faintly heard the giant say, "What?  Huh?  Okay."  When the train stopped she saw the handsome man and the giant alight from the train and walk along the platform to the stairs where they walked down toward the street.

She must have been more anxious than she'd thought because when the conductor came up behind her and asked where her friend was, she jumped.

"He and the giant had to leave," she said before adding, "I think they were made."

"Made?  What do you mean made?" asked the conductor.

She didn't explain but just asked a simple question.

"Have you ever seen them before?"

"The big guy?"  He thought for a minute.  "No.  I've seen other huge men but not that particular one.  The guy sitting up here?"  He thought again, "No, I can't say I've seen him either but that doesn't mean anything because there are a lot of trains and conductors.  We can't have seen everyone."  He paused.  "So just you to Mount Prospect?"  Realizing she had more to say, he added, "Sorry, I've got a lot of tickets to take."

"Yeah, sure, I guess," she said.

"No prob," said the conductor.  "Look for me tomorrow and say hello.  Maybe we can have coffee."

She breathed a sigh of relief.

"Yes," she said.  "Coffee.  Great.  See you then."

She thought she might get off the train in the city but stayed on all the way to Mount Prospect where she walked around for a while waiting for the next train to come back.  She looked for the giant, the handsome man, a giant on a large motorcycle in the distance, or any combination thereof but finally decided she was safe and got a coffee to go for the train back into the city.

As she waited on the platform she heard a motorcycle's roar and off in the distance she saw a tiny person on a small Harley-Davidson.  The motorcycle was white and the rider was dressed in white leathers.

"That's some outfit," a person beside her said.  "And that custom bike must have cost a bundle."

She turned to look and saw the handsome man and the giant standing to her left, both looking angry as the train was speeding into the station.

She gasped, closed her eyes and waited.  She felt the wind of the train as it entered the station, slowed, and stopped.  When she opened her eyes they were gone and a conductor was waving at her to enter the next car.