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.