Business as unusual
By Karen Wittkamm
For the tenth year, Averie Diall entered the building where she worked, got into the same elevator, went up to the fifteenth floor and exited with little on her mind. Once in the office, she did her routine; put her purse in her desk drawer, wrote down messages from the answering machine, typed up the letters her boss, Bartholomew Bender, dictated into his tape recorder, the previous day.
Bender, being in his late seventies, came in each day, hunched over his desk and did his work. For the previous five years, Averie did her best to buffer the blow of his partner’s retirement, which made him somewhat withdrawn. She understood his melancholy; they’d established a well respected, prosperous company and he missed him, but there was nothing to be done. Mr. Morgan, who was also in his seventies and in declining health, wanted to spend more time with his family, so, he sold his share of the business to Mr. Kyle, who at the age of twenty three, was just out of college and had the money to buy it. Through and after the transition of his departure, all Averie could do, was stay interesting for Bender’s benefit, encouraging him to ask questions about current movies and music, general culture events; things she imagined he would like to know about. She assumed, because of their age difference, Kyle didn’t socialize with Bender, in the office or out of it. To exacerbate Bender’s solitude; his secretary Gail, whom Averie replaced because she’d retired, told her before she left, of Bender and his son Barry’s, falling out. They’d argued years before then shortly after, Barry moved his family away to the northwest, never calling again, that Gail was aware of. Ever since then, Bender’s had only a few people he saw regularly.
Averie became accustomed to Bender’s habits; coming in at nine and staying until six or seven, leaving instructions for things that needed to be done. She liked that he thought her a competent secretary and was grateful for her hard work. After Kyle became partner, she quickly found out that he wasn’t as impressed with her and stated so, on occasion. Her feelings were the same about him, but in spite of their mutual disregard for each other, Bender refused to dismiss her, suspecting Kyle wanted someone more his age. For all of her bosses favorable attributes; cordial, honest, soft spoken; Kyle had as many faults; hostile, self absorbed and obnoxious. Averie didn’t think anything of it; other than he was three years younger than her, therefore, thought he knew more. She knew otherwise; he’d been doing the job for only five, but she’d done it for ten years.
During her typing, the phone rang. Averie picked it up, but, before she could say Bender and Kyle, she heard, who she was certain was Kyle, and another man talking. At first she didn’t understand what was being said, almost interrupting them, ease dropping being a secretarial no-no, but then, the man specifically said; kill Bender, which changed the scope of the ease dropping rule completely. For her, not listening would be to let Mr. Bender down, and that wasn’t her job. She was angry, but trembled as they went on, discussing a price. It occurred to her that Kyle probably hit his speed dial number for the office without knowing it. As she listened, Averie held her hand to her mouth to prevent herself from screaming. With clarity, Kyle said he wanted Bender killed and the body not found. The man confirmed he could do it and the price he wanted was fifty thousand. She wanted to slam down the phone, but instead, gently returned it to its cradle, to prevent being found out. Averie thought herself a strong woman, who was put into the weak position of knowing something she wasn’t suppose too. When her hand lowered from her mouth, her lipstick was all over her hand, so, therefore her face. She took her mirror from her purse, surveyed the mass smearing and began wiping it off with a tissue, quickly reapplying it.
In all the years of her being a secretary, she’d never been put in such a dilemma, and
didn’t know what to do. Who was she to tell; Mr. Bender? Or, maybe it was better to tell the police? The choices bounced back and forth in her mind. She began to hyperventilate, spilling her coffee across her desk. She pounded on it to get Bender’s attention, Kyle would be in soon. He heard her thumping, and came slowly down the hall. Seeing her, he took a bag from the kitchenette and had her breath into it. Desperately trying to regain herself, she tried to tell him. Just as she caught her breath and began whispering the first part of their conversation, but with his poor hearing he couldn’t make out what she was saying, Kyle entered. They looked at him. He exchanged greetings with Bender but not her, and then went into his office, closing the door. Bender didn’t press her on what she was trying to tell him. Averie decided he couldn’t be told; at his age, the fright could send him to the hospital or something worse.
She heard the two men right, she knew she did, and began to worry more. Had Kyle seen that his phone accidently dialed the office, during or after his meeting with the other man? Her heart pounded. For her to write it down could be dangerous. Being as unnerved as she was, she wondered who she could tell that would believe such a wild tale, would she? Averie looked out the window, down toward the greenbelt area of the park that was in beneath it. It was so incredibly beautiful outside; people couldn’t be planning on killing anyone, when they could be taking in the sun; playing catch or bicycling. Bender went back to his office, leaving her alone with the problem he didn’t know about. Her focus wasn’t to return to her work, it was on helping Mr. Bender.
In her mind, she analytically prioritized what she needed to do. First, share this with someone who knows him and would believe her; second, find a way to keep someone with her boss constantly; and third, stop Kyle’s accomplice from doing it. Averie started to tackle the first problem and began scrolling through the names in the rolodex on her computer, stopping at Mr. Johnson, his longtime friend, but then hesitated, mulling over whether he would believe her. Probably not she surmised; but why he might not, there wasn’t an explanation for, other than her gut instinct. She continued the search for someone, anyone who could help, stopping once more, at Manley Bender, his grandson. Averie never heard is first name used before, it interested her; she wondered if it was a family name, after a few minutes, she gathered her thoughts, getting back to what trouble his grandfather was in. This choice was a tough one, because, if she did call him, how could she approach it? As far as she knew, they’d not been in contact, so, would he even care? And, if she did let him know, could he be trusted? Her options were exhausted, and with her adrenaline running so high she was too. Averie had no alternative but going on, she finally finished going through the names. She had to think about Manley for a few minutes, he was only two hours away by plane, and Mr. Bender was safe, at least until the work day ended. She wrote down his home number, putting it in her purse, and went back to work, to not seem suspicious.
Panic set in as she tossed around who to call. It was either, Manley, or the police. The latter made no sense, she had no evidence, and it was something she overheard on a call, that wasn’t meant to be made. They were far less likely to believe her, if they did ask her about Kyle and she admitted that she didn’t care for him. Would they twist it, into her wanting him gone? And, if they told Kyle what she was accusing him of, would he talk Bender into firing her, leaving him vulnerable? Determination to make certain they didn’t get their opportunity came over her. She’d have to make sure of his safety, somehow.
When Kyle came out of his office, he looked at Averie with a blank glance, not giving any indication whether he knew she’d listened to his conversation with the man or not. She had no intention of letting him become suspicious of her, keeping her face toward the computer monitor, but with him near, it made her perspire more than before and wished he’d go into his office. After going into the file room, then coming out, he stopped at her desk and asked if mail had come for him. Averie kept typing, replying none for him.
At twelve thirty, her lunchtime, she was in the midst of the agony of, whether or not to leave Mr. Bender with him, it was perplexing and complicated. Would he be safe for the hour she was gone? What if the man was to come in the office while she was out? Fear for her boss, gripped her. Kyle’s close proximity made her decide. She couldn’t and wouldn’t eat today. Instead, she’d have to go in the hall, call Manley and be back within five or six minutes. But how would she let Kyle know she’d be around? She never told him whether or not she were leaving or staying for lunch, only telling Mr. Bender. So to do it, would draw unnecessary attention to her. Giving it a minutes thought, she stood in front of Kyle’s door, and in her loudest voice, told Mr. Bender she was staying in for lunch, but had to use the ladies room and would be right back. He brought his lunch every day and didn’t care. Kyle opened his door angrily saying, he was on the phone and would she lower her voice, he could hear her every word.
She retreated, grabbed her purse and went out the front door to the bathroom down the corridor, dialing Bender grandson’s number as she walked. A woman answered. Averie identified herself, insistent that she speak to him right away. The woman said she was his mother and would have to give him a message because he was at work. Her phone began to slip in her trembling fingers then repeated the urgency in speaking to him immediately, adding that it was about the health of his grandfather. His mother ceased resisting, then went and came back, giving her the number.
Before calling, she went into a stall and threw up from the strain her knowledge was taking. With sweat beading on her forehead and a cold chill all over, she rinsed her mouth then tried the number. A man answered. Averie asked if it were he, the man said it was. Her heart started to slow as she told him what she’d heard. She’d not expected that he would take the call lightly, considering the situation with his grandfather, and was prepared for his refusal to help. Manley listened in awe of her quick action on the information and had to concede that his own secretary knew more about what was going on, than he did. He realized she wasn’t fearful for her own safety and really had to like his grandfather to put herself in jeopardy. When she was done, he asked what she thought he could do, all the way from there. Her only answer was that he might be able to help find out whether what she heard was true, or if it was the meanderings of an unhappy man. Manley directed her to call the police if she knew it to be true. She went through the reasons why that wasn’t a good idea. He asked her if she could call them anonymously. It wasn’t going easily, just as she feared. Logic was the only way to make him act; asking him if he’d believe such a story if someone left a message like that. He agreed that he’d probably dismiss it as a hoax. If ever the power of persuasion was needed, she wanted the gift right now. After consideration, he said he’d be on the next flight then wrote down her cell number, assuring her that he’d call, leaving a message of what time he’d be at the office.
He’d taken her seriously, she was helping Mr. Bender. She cleaned herself up in the mirror; other
than pale, she looked alright then began chewing a breath mint and went back to the office. Bender and Kyle were in the lobby, in front of her desk, making her knees weak, she almost dropped to the floor. They were making dinner plans, which they’d never done and of course she knew it. She pleasantly interrupted them, as she put her purse into the drawer, declaring that he couldn’t go with Kyle because he’d made plans weeks before with Mr. Johnson. Bender looked at her confused, he didn’t remember doing that, she was poured out charm, convincing him that he had. Both men agreed to another night and returned to their offices. Averie called Johnson’s office to confirm the imaginary dinner date. His secretary didn’t know about it, but Averie convinced her too, that they’d made it. The woman said she’d have to check with him and would get back to her. A complication Averie hadn’t anticipated; what if Johnson already had plans. Her throat chocked up, had she made a mistake that would cost her, her job? She’d lied to her boss and couldn’t tell him why. The minutes ticked by slowly. Concentrating on her, what was now; stacks of letters and messages to take care of, was impossible.
Within the hour, Johnson’s secretary called back and the two men were set up for dinner, which Averie knew usually went into the late hours, and having received Manley’s message on her voicemail while she’d been waiting, said he’d be there by three thirty. Her boss wouldn’t be left alone if she could help it, at least for the next few days until she and his grandson could figure out what to do. She tried to ease her mind with all the positive developments but there were still things that needed to be done. Manipulating her and Bender’ schedules for the next few days wasn’t a problem, but she wouldn’t be able to arrange Manley’s, there was no telling when he’d have to go back home, and certainly not the assassin’s, keeping him, whoever he was, at bay, was the only chance there was.
At three twenty, Manley came in, but introduced himself as Mathias. Averie stared at him, unaware of who Mathias was, asking if she could help him. He said he was Bartholomew’s grandson. She’d told him she thought his name was Manley. He said no, that was his mother’s maiden name, his middle name, and that he was Mathias. She laughed at the confusion, relieved that he wasn’t stuck with being a Manley Bender all his life. He agreed; it was a bit too descriptive for him. Averie blushed at his innuendo then tried to return her thoughts back to the problem. Where they could talk about what to do? When she could look him in the eyes again, she quickly told him of the arranged dinner date. Mathias watched her sitting behind her desk, carefully. She was less frantic than she’d been on the phone. If she was upset, there wasn’t any indication of it, she was calm. He said they should go to dinner near his grandfather’s apartment to discuss it, so he’d be home before he and Johnson finished. Averie agreed it was a good idea. Her desire to advise him was enormous, reluctantly she used controlled, he’d have to decide which way they’d proceed, it was his grandfather in the path of murder, not hers.
On the intercom, she let Mr. Bender know his grandson was there. His arrival was very much a surprise to the old man, he told her to send him back. He winked at her, and went down the hall to see his grandfather. After thirty minutes, Mathias came out, went into the file room and wasn’t seen again until five o’clock. Averie worried, Mathias hadn’t gotten to see or meet Kyle; he’d left before he came out, which could be problematic if he wanted to follow him. Right after the Bender’s left, she locked up for the night, driving to the restaurant to wait for Mathias.
Averie fidgeted the entire time, picking apart the straw in her soda, folding and unfolding
her napkin and using the restroom twice. It was a half hour before he arrived. Once they were seated and had ordered, he asked about Kyle, what kind of man he was and what she thought of him. She couldn’t tell him much, only that he never gave her letters to type, didn’t let her make his appointments, never spoke of his family, friends or personal life and that he and Mr. Bender had never had a meeting. But, he did bring in business, although not as much as his grandfather. So, her instinct was that he was only with Mr. Bender to cover up something else, but she had no hard facts and couldn’t prove it; which, really hadn’t bothered her up until the phone call, because it hadn’t seemed to bother his grandfather.
He after listening, found her credible, and liked her sandy brown hair, not that, that’s what made
her believable, but it was nice. No, he was sure she’d heard something, and his grandfather was in some kind of danger, but what if she was wrong and only thought it was Kyle’s voice. He’d have to be absolutely certain before going to the police; because if it’s not him, he’d have to find out who it was, to give them a name. And if it were him, there was no sense in messing up the tip off by accusing Kyle prematurely. Mathias stayed to the subject, asking where Kyle lived. She told him she’d text him the address in the morning, it was at work. Averie asked him what they should do. He answered timidly and indecisively, saying they’d have to find out what else, if anything, Kyle was doing and how it involved his grandfather. He told her, to see her reaction; that if they found he was actually going to do something, and the police needed to be called, she would have to testify against him. With a clear head she agreed, telling him that Kyle had contempt for her and her lowly position as “just” a secretary, and that it would be a pleasure, if he were actually planning on hurting her boss.
She told Mathias that Kyle must have called from his cell phone because a land line wouldn’t have dialed the office number accidentally. Her distress over it was visible to him. He devised a way to cover her; telling her that since Kyle’s office was next to the lobby, she could put the answering machine on the other side of the wall in the morning, after he arrived, and turn it on. Then she could knock on his door and hurry back to her chair, getting him to ask, who was there. Mathias pointed out, that, if Kyle noticed the phone call, and asked her whether she picked it up, then he would be on its tape as if he’d reached the machine. And, if he didn’t believe her, she could play it for him, as proof. Her smile showed the gratitude she had for his help and quick thinking. He thought it the least he could do for her concern over his grandfather, and since neither one knew, exactly who or what they were up against, for her courage. She asked Mathias why he didn’t meet Kyle when he was in the office. He said he thought it better, if Kyle didn’t know who he was or what he looked like, that would give him the advantage to watch him undetected. They parted as they met, as business partners, they had a job to do and neither one took it lightly. Mathias went home to wait for his grandfather but feel asleep because of the long day. It was ten thirty when Bender came in and he saw Mathias sleeping on the sofa, he patted him awake.
Averie was in the elevator early, to get Kyle’s address texted to Mathias and the answering machine ready, before he came in. She was afraid of being caught and worked quickly, then waited for the prey. It occurred to her that they were plotting against the plotter, she’d handled Bender lost luggage, cancellations by people, unfinished contracts and the like, but never thwarting an attempt on his life. Mr. Kyle came in before Mr. Bender, and went in his office, closing the door, as usual. She couldn’t swallow; the saliva built up in her mouth as she turned on the machine, knocked on his door and flew into her chair, putting her head down, as if she were hard at work. He swung the door open, asking who’s there, then looking at her, said, hey you, did you knock? She breathed through her nose, swallowed, then answered him that she didn’t and hadn’t heard anything. He leered at her skeptically then went back in his room. Tears of fright formed in her eyes. She really thought he knew. Hopefully she’d been calm enough to fool him, but couldn’t be certain. She put the machine back, and would have to edit it later in the day, after he left.
While she was doing her conspiracy, Mathias was driving his grandfather to work. He went with him as far as the office door, looked in at her, but stayed quiet, then left. Mathias texted Averie, that she was to text him when Kyle left the building. The distraction was getting in the way of her work, she hoped Kyle would leave. It wasn’t until one thirty that he showed himself. Under one arm he had a folder, in one hand had his briefcase and in the other his coat. When the front door closed she sent Mathias the text, but didn’t know what he was going to do, possibly follow him she thought. He did just that. When Kyle got in his car, Mathias was ready in his grandfathers, to tale him. Kyle made a stop at a department store, lingerie boutique and hunting shop. There wasn’t any sign of meeting up with any man or men. It was going on four thirty. Mathias turned the car around, to get back in time to pick up his grandfather. He’d try again tomorrow and texted Averie about the failure.
On day two, after taking his grandfather to work, he again waited in the parking garage of the building for Kyle. Averie texted Mathias he looked as if he were leaving, but it was three forty five. There wasn’t any time left to follow Kyle he texted her. She offered to do it, and would tell his grandfather she was ill, if he would happen to coincidently come up, and answer the phones for her. Mathias agreed and went up. Her hands shook as she hurried to be at the elevator the same time as Kyle. He looked at her in the elevator as they went down, she didn’t look ill to him. She started breathing heavy to make her face get flush, as if she were ready to throw up. Wedging himself into the corner, he was plainly disgusted to be near her. If he’d not been sure she was sick before; he was now. Averie wasn’t confident enough to think she could outsmart him, if he turned out to be as sinister as she thought he might be, and knew she’d have to use wits she’d never needed to use before. The idea disconcerted her as her hand fumbled for her keys in her purse, when they exited the elevator.
To keep his distance from her, Kyle walked slower, watching her as she got in her car. Her head went down as if she were getting sick. He got in his car and drove toward the exit. She hurried, letting a car get in between them. Her hands shook on the wheel, trying to stay within eyesight of his car. Despite it, she wasn’t far from him. Averie wasn’t naïve and knew men were afraid to be caught doing something wrong, and that in that fear, they harmed people whom they suspected were a threat, she stayed guarded and cautious, keeping her distance. If she lost him, that would have to be okay, it was better than the alternative. She watched as his first stop was at a camera shop, after that, he drove to an office building near to theirs. Her mind calculated that it would be too hard to follow him if he went in. She tried to think of options if he did, but didn’t come up with any. Averie stayed three cars behind him, into the parking structure of the building and quickly texted Mathias where they were. He wrote back that if he went inside, she was to forget about it. Her response was quick; maybe pursuing Kyle wasn’t going to turn up anything and they should think of something else. Mathias agreed, not saying that he’d get into Kyle’s townhouse in the morning, while he was at work. Averie continued to watch his car then suddenly jumped from surprise, Kyle was still in his car and a man was getting in. She shot off the message to Mathias and prepared to follow him again.
As they left the garage, her foot eased up on the gas pedal to let a car get between them. Traffic was heavy enough that she could see him in the next lane, two cars ahead of her. When Kyle signaled to get off the interstate, Averie did the same. They drove to a house a half hour out of the city. She noted the landmarks and turns, sharing them with Mathias after the two men arrived at their destination, and she’d parked a few houses away, across the street. Kyle parked his car at the top of the driveway, so, she could just make out their figures. After getting out of the car, the man began pointing at his lawn to Kyle. Mathias texted back, he was on his way and she was to stay out of sight of the house. Never were instructions so futile. Her intuition told her that they’d be in the house talking, and she should try to listen to what they were saying now, they weren’t going to wait until Mathias got there, and neither could she.
Averie knew she’d have to think of a reason for being around the sides of the house. It was five o’clock and the neighbors were starting to come home. As soon as she saw that they’d gone in the house, she got out of her car, straightened out her skirt and went to her trunk, pulling out her laptop. She approached the man next door who was getting out of his car, opened her laptop and said she would be inspecting the house for termites, asking if he would be interested in an inspection. The man said no and watched as she went to the side of the house. Looking up at the eaves, she faked knowing what termite infestation was. Once the neighbor was inside, she went to each side window, trying to get a visual on the two men. There was no sign of them. She’d have to go to the other side of the house. Casually she walked back to the sidewalk, hoping that it was far enough from the front window so she wouldn’t be recognized if Kyle was near it. With her laptop open and head down, she hit the keys as if she were entering stuff. It worked she was at the other side. Through the first window, she took a glance and didn’t see anyone, then move on to the second one, where she heard Kyle’s voice. Pressing herself against the wall, with her ear lifted near the window, she desperately tried to hear what they were saying. Kyle became clear once the cars cleared the street. He was telling the man about Mathias and that they’d have to think of some other way of killing Bender before he could change his will which excluded his family, adding that he’d get the business and they’d both profit. Averie was shocked. How did he know, whether or not the family was written out of his will? She became uncomfortable, realizing she’d been there a least five minutes already, and figured that there wasn’t much time before they’d leave, she couldn’t stay much longer or her car could be seen by Kyle.
Carefully she prepared to leave, when the man abruptly offered to take care of Mathias too, for another ten thousand. She froze. After a minute she composed herself and went to her car. Up the street, Mathias was standing outside his grandfather’s, shaking his head at her. Averie waved at him to follow her then drove off. He nodded at her as she passed, but he didn’t go after her, instead, he drove down the street, stopping in front of the house, so he could get a good look at their faces. It took them fifteen minutes before coming out, he stared at them with his head lowered and his arm moving, as if writing.
Her heart sank, as she maneuvered through traffic back into the city, it was because of her that Mathias, the poor, scared, nervous man was a target. She drove haphazardly to the restaurant they’d been at the previous night. The situation was becoming more than she’d expected. In her mind, they’d be able to catch Kyle admitting his plan and they’d turn him in, simple, neatly wrapped up, they’d save Bender and things would return to normal. Only she’d made it worse, Mathias could end up dead even before her boss and she had no way to help him. She didn’t even know him. While she waited for Mathias to arrive, she tried different strategies to keep him around her and Bender, but nothing worked out. Telling him to forget it and he could go home wasn’t an option, she needed his help, or, if he came in the office, Kyle would meet him and there would go his cover, she’d paused, and had better wait, then once she’d told Mathias, they could collaborate on their next move.
Mathias came strolling in, not in the least bit as excited as she was. Before anything was
said she demanded he not say how stupid it was, for her to go around the house, insisting that if she hadn’t, she wouldn’t have heard their new plans then after ordering their dinner, she quietly proceeded, repeating their words to him. He concealed his rage, saying only, that Kyle was a little weasel, as he sat in admiration of her guts to protect her boss. If his statement was meant to comfort her, it didn’t. She wanted action from him, but there wasn’t any. Averie determined that if he weren’t up to catching Kyle before his man killed Mr. Bender or himself, she would have to be. Since there wasn’t much time, and if he somehow wasn’t killed by the man, then he’d eventually have to go back home and she couldn’t live or watch her boss twenty four hours a day. As a rouse, because she was now burdened with worrying about both he and his grandfather, Mathias asked her to let him know when Kyle came into the office again, so he could follow him; keeping to himself that he was going into Kyle’s place, to find out what he could about when it was suppose to happen, so she wouldn’t be involved in his breaking and entering. Her disappointment in his in-urgency and the feeling that he wasn’t doing enough was overwhelming, even though she didn’t want him to get in trouble with whatever they were up against or the police. In anguish, she agreed to let him know.
He asked about how she came to be working with his grandfather. She started off with Gail’s retirement, ten years earlier, and said how at twenty one, his grandfather took a chance by hiring her, she only having had experience working in her parents office. Mathias said he remembered Gail vaguely, then began counting on his fingers, ten plus twenty one. Averie watched in horror, he was nothing like the elder Bender, being as sharp as a tack now, as when she first started at the office. While he continued his adding, she couldn’t believe he was who she called to help catch the potential killer of his grandfather. Fatigue went across her face, she rubbed her forehead. How could she ever get through all of it, especially since she didn’t want to think of him as a ditz, whom she’d have to give instructions to, for each and every step, all the time? As she continued to watch him, her confidence sunk lower, she tried to redeem him with the positive; he did come all the way there when he didn’t have to, which was a plus; and he’d been reliable, following Kyle the day before and meeting her at the house earlier, and? And? She was sure there’d be more ands to fill in, there had to be, he couldn’t fail her in the next few days, unless they did murder him, then. No, there could be no, then, she thought as he finished adding and declared that she was thirty one. Averie smiled and asked how old he was, his answer was quick, thirty two. She clapped to encourage him, and to show she was impressed that he knew without checking his driver’s license. Mathias kept his joke going a little longer, adding, thank you and that he liked living with his mom, which he actually didn’t, because he liked her oatmeal. Her hands shook as she became humored by him, reminding herself, she didn’t need to know him, only needed his help. Her patience with him and courtesy for his perceived lack of brains, even though he was fooling her, made him see her truly kind heart, whatever she thought about him, was kept to herself, not insulting him. They confirmed what they were to do the following day then parted, each driving home, having a better sense of who each other was.
When Kyle got to work, she let Mathias know. He went to his townhouse, picked the lock and began to search. An hour passed before he found what he was looking for, a torn piece of paper with Bender and Friday the eighth, written on it. That was this coming Friday. What he still needed to know was where and how. Going over in his mind, were the possible scenario’s of how. His conclusion; it would most like be set up as a violent robbery of some type, possibly with a gun, since he’d be with his grandfather and they’d both have to be killed, so a knife wouldn’t be efficient. Where though? Coming out of work? Probably not, there would be too many people at leaving at five. It must be at home, his grandfather told him he doesn’t go out in the evenings anymore, because of his eyesight, unless someone picked him up. Mathias put a blank piece of paper over the note and traced over Kyle’s writing, put it in his coat, leaving the house just as it had been. He’d not heard from Averie, Kyle had to be at work. It was a rush for him to get back to the parking garage to take up his surveillance position, to fool Averie into thinking he’d been there the entire time, but he made it. To her dismay, Kyle stayed the whole day; he’d even had a sandwich delivered for lunch. At five she let Mathias know he was leaving. He responded back, that he’d be up after he watched him leave. Twenty minutes passed until it was clear for him. When he got into the office, he offered to take her and Bender to dinner. They accepted. He told them to meet him by the car because he had a call home to make. Averie thought nothing of it, giving him the office key to lock up when he’d finished. Once they’d left, he went into Kyle’s office, slipped the copy he’d made at his townhouse under his desk pad and left.
After a pleasant, relaxed dinner, with Bender oblivious to the impending attempt on his life, they parted. Within minutes, a text from Averie came through to Mathias, saying that tomorrow, whenever Kyle was gone, she might have the chance to look around his office for any kind of information. His fingers went across the keyboard of his phone, replying she should, and why didn’t he think of that. He enjoyed that she was sharp and was only a sliver of a step behind him, leaving him to not have to suggest it in the morning to her. Then he texted back, she’d better not get caught; he’s seen Kyle’s size and wouldn’t be able to beat him up. Reading the message from him, Averie shook her head and blew out a breath of air, the recurring feeling that maybe she’d made a mistake calling him, came back. She again wondered if she weren’t better off doing it alone, then hated herself for making a conclusion about him, the same way Kyle did
After the prior two days conversations with Mathias, when Averie parked in her parking structure, she got her laptop off the back seat floor. She went into her apartment, put down her stuff and collapsed on her bed, not knowing whether she was more tired from all the unexpected activity or Mathias. Her eyes wanted to close, but she was curious about what would be found if she did an internet search for Kyle. Pulling herself up, she plugged in her laptop and began. It annoyed her, because nothing came up for his name. Averie stopped, showered, got into her nightgown and tried several more times, using Jim Kyle, James Kyle, and even John Kyle, but the same thing, there wasn’t anything on there for him, there were others, but not him. Her hand went to her phone to text Mathias, but should she? It hit her that he’d be deeply insulted if she didn’t, as she would be with him if he kept information from her, so she sent him a message; found nothing about Kyle on internet, then went back to searching. A few seconds later he responded; false identity? Was he on to something, she wondered, texting back; are we in far too deep? His reply; not yet, give it a couple days. Averie answered; if we, and more specifically you, have that long! Mathias sent back; get some sleep Averie, you’ve worked hard today. She sent her final message; you did too, goodnight.
The last thing she remembered doing before falling asleep, was thinking how Mathias could be calm, she wasn’t. After fully waking up, her coffee gave her the jolt she needed to hurry across town to the office. Continually pressing the elevator button wasn’t making it go faster, Averie found out. At every floor’s stop, people got on and off, making her even more anxious than she already was, about searching Kyle’s office. She knew she had at least thirty minutes until he could arrive, eight o’clock being his earliest time into the office. She went through what she thought was everything, even his books, but didn’t find anything. When time was up, she turned to shut the lights off, she saw the desk pad, hurried over to it and found the paper, racing to put out the lights, then out the door, she got in her seat, putting the paper into her purse, unaware of whether it had anything to do with his plot. Averie texted Mathias about what she’d found, but got no answer. Her mind wandered, where was he? Maybe he’d stopped at a market and had to use his fingers to count how many of something he needed? She hated her thoughts and herself for thinking them. If only he’d do something to restore her faith in him, giving her hope. Adding to her despair, Mr.’s Bender and Kyle came in together, which she found severely disturbing. Where was Mathias? She asked; Mr. Bender replied that he had an appointment, so dropped him off. Was he at the police station, telling them what was going on? He’d tell her before he did, wouldn’t he? There wasn’t an expectation that he would; but hoped
Averie checked that Kyle’s door was closed, took out the paper and read it, Bender, Friday the eighth. That was tomorrow night, she had to get Mathias to text her back, entering; urgent; and found note with the date. But, still there was no answer. She wanted to act fast, and had to come up with an engagement or event that would keep Mr. Bender busy for the night. Her brain worked overtime, theatre, show, dinner and a show, movies, all things he did, but not with her. Her head went back in hopelessness, what would Gail, the seasoned secretary do? With joy, Averie snapped her head forward. Gail, of course, he’d go anywhere with her, for as long as she wanted. Back to the computerized names she went, and started to dial her number, then stopped. What reason could they have for the excursion out? She searched the information on Gail; an anniversary; that passed. Her birthday; it was coming up. After a happy, but brief catch up, Averie talked her into going with Mr. Bender to dinner and the theatre, everything would be arranged, but she’d have to pick him up from home. Gail was thrilled, agreeing to it. Working as hard as she could, Averie called the theatre’s in the area, until she found one with a show he would like, which had good seats left, then made dinner reservations, both being paid for by her, on her credit card. Averie was pleased with what she’d done; they’d be gone until at least eleven thirty, Mathias could pick him up from the theatre, going home with him and poof, Mr. Bender would be alive to see another day.
Mathias texted from the garage, asking if Kyle was there, Averie said no, he’d left an hour before. When he came up, she rapidly told him what she’d found and done, forgetting to ask where he’d been. He grinned, but said nothing, having been out looking for a disguise. Unbeknownst to her, he went under the assumption that she would take steps to protect his grandfather once she found the note and he wasn’t disappointed, they fit into his plans perfectly. He asked a favor of her. Could she go to his uncle’s apartment after work tomorrow, to make sure it stayed secure, in case the guy tried to break in? He would stay there, but he had things he had to do until he picked up his grandfather. She didn’t think twice, agreeing immediately to it. He’d made a spare key while he was out in anticipation of her answer, and gave it to her. Averie hardly slept the night but managed to get up in the morning.
She did her work as usual, not letting on there were secrets in the office. Kyle behaved coolly while there, doing what he always did, as if he knew nothing about what was going to occur then left early. Mr. Bender was pleased he’d see Gail, to enjoy an evening in her company. Averie had taken care of at least one day, but didn’t know how much longer she’d be able to go on making sure he wasn’t left alone. At five, she, Bender and Mathias left work. Averie hurried home to change into comfortable at home clothes and get her tooth brush. She parked across from Mr. Bender apartment building and waited for Gail to pick him up at six, they had six thirty reservations and it would take them at least that long to get to the restaurant. Gail showed up on time, Averie grinned because one task was completed. With key in hand, she went into his apartment. She’d never been there before. It was nice she noticed, neat and comfortable, an intellectual’s surroundings, which, was how she saw Bender, it matched him exactly. Mathias left her a note in the kitchen, saying she was to help herself to anything for dinner. She momentarily found it strange that he left it for her. If he’d done it while Bender was still home, he’d have seen it. And, if he left it after Bender was picked up, she hadn’t passed him leaving the building. So, where was he? Averie ignored it, making herself a ham sandwich, with a glass of milk, brushed her teeth when she was done, then got comfortable on the sofa for the duration of the night.
It was ten thirty when a noise woke her. A key was turning in the front door lock. She
assumed that it was Mathias, relaxing herself by the thought. Staying on the couch, she tried to reach the lamp to turn it on. The door opened and there was a scuffle, without knowing what was going on, a fight between two men broke out in the doorway. Her heart raced as she struggled to figure out what to do. The two bodies fell into the foyer, the man’s gun flew, they continued punching and hitting each other. When she got the lamp on, she saw Mr. Bender, hitting the man she guessed was Kyle’s hired murderer. She quickly turned her head, and looked around the room, to find something to hit the man with or to give to Bender. Averie picked up the end table lamp made of metal, but as she tugged, the cord didn’t pull out of the socket, she arm whipped back, dropping it and she nearly fell on it. Her eyes scanned rapidly, setting themselves on a thick book her boss must have been reading, from the way it was resting on the coffee table. She picked it up, hurried to her boss and offered it to him. In the confusion, he looked up at her and hollered; he didn’t need to read at the moment, it was Mathias’s voice she heard and stopped, he was dressed as his grandfather. The man was on top of him and punched him in the face, just then, police were coming in, pulling them apart.
She spotted the gun, cleared her throat and pointed it out to a policeman, who took it, along with the man, it didn’t cross her mind that maybe it was Mathias’s. Averie didn’t know how to feel about being left out of the plan. Mathias was persistent, saying she was in the plan; that Kyle’s guy had to be convinced that his grandfather was home, when actually it was her, and that Bender, played by him, left the building on foot and was on his way back, giving the guy the chance to murder him. He and the police praised her courage, but were adamant she never think of doing the police’s job ever again. With the most pitiful look she could muster, she turned to a nearby police officer, asking him, if he’d have believed her, if she’d called and told him what was said. He looked at her sullen face, saying it would have been very hard, without any evidence. She nodded at him with a grin for his truthfulness, proving her point.
Mathias picked up his grandfather, who, seeing the scuff marks on the wooden floor in the foyer,
asked what happened while he was gone, but then retracted the question, being tired after a day at
work and evening out, saying they’d talk about it in the morning. Averie and Mathia went to the
police station to give their statements; the process taking until one a.m. The police informed them,
they’d arrested Kyle in his townhouse once his paid hit man was apprehended, attempting to kill whom he thought was Mr. Bender. She asked Mathias if he knew the man had a gun. He told her he wasn’t certain, but once the guy had it in his back, to get him inside the apartment, he knew that’s how he was going to do it. The officer then continued, saying, Kyle confessed that he was a longtime friend of Bender’s old partner, Morgan’s, grandson. And Morgan’ grandson’s got the idea after he heard that Kyle passed his bar exam, telling Kyle, that for him, being Morgan’s grandson was too obvious, the police would suspect everyone in the family. Averie asked, why Bender? The officer’s answer was; he came up with killing Bender because he knew Bender was just as old as Morgan, and also because he knew that Bender and his family were estranged, therefore, he thought no one would miss him and would think it was a robbery. Once Kyle was talked into it, he set up the purchase of the business for Kyle and planned the murder; all to take over the business. Averie told him she didn’t find anything for a James M. Kyle on the internet. The officer explained she wouldn’t have, because he inverted his name, he’s Kyle M. James. Mathias and she looked at each other, as if admitting he was clever, and they’d never have thought of that.
Once they’d returned to Bender’s apartment building it was three a.m. Averie began to
get in her car, but Mathias invited her to stay in the spare room, reminding her, her toothbrush was in the apartment. She reached in her purse, declaring that it wasn’t, as she pulled it out. He then said that it was far too early in the morning, for her to drive home, she accepted, her eyes were tired. After she cleaned up the living room where she’d fallen asleep, he gave her a clean, white t-shirt to sleep in then each retired to separate rooms.
They slept in, except Bender. It was a surprise for him when Averie walked into the kitchen wearing what she’d been in the night before. Mathias wasn’t up to explain her being there, she felt in serious trouble with her boss. Finally, five minutes later, he walked in, pleased to find his grandfather alive and well making breakfast for them. They gave him a synopsis of what Kyle had been up to, and offered all the details after they ate. From what Bender had just been told, he knew he owed them for saving him and the first way he’d repay them was to not just have breakfast, but a sumptuous one. Mathias and Averie feasted on bacon, eggs, toast and orange juice. After, with Bender in the living room, they went over everything, starting from the phone call. Averie asked her boss how Kyle could have known about his will. Bender admitted he kept it in his office file cabinet. He must have gotten a look at it when he and Averie weren’t there, possibly on a weekend. Mathias had to break it to him that it was Morgan’s grandson who thought out the entire thing. Devastation swept across Bender’s face, he’d known the boy since birth. Mathias repeated everything the police told them. Including, that the grandson was deeply in debt and thought it wouldn’t be a good idea to have Morgan killed; he’d be a suspect, but he wouldn’t be considered one, if it were he, who he had killed.
After recognizing the disappointment both he and Morgan were having for his grandson, he moved on to the ironic twist the plot had taken. If Averie hadn’t called Mathias, they would still be missing out on each other’s lives, all because of his refusal to stop being a pig headed fool. Bender apologized again to Mathias about the fight with his father, and said his dad was on his way to visit, after fifteen years, arriving at two o’clock. His grandson shook his hand with gratitude, he’d never understood, why the separation. Averie watched, pleased at the outcome of the horrendous week. Before she left, Bender asked her if it would be out of protocol to hug his lovely secretary, for a job well done. Thinking about it for a minute, she said it probably would be, but who cared. He embraced her with loving appreciation for all she’d done, she hugged him back and when they released each other, she couldn’t resist, and kissed his cheek. His blush made him glow.
Mathias walked her out to her car then invited her out to dinner, after he, his dad and grandfather talked, as a show of appreciation for having done the right thing by calling him, when, she could have not taken it seriously. She accepted with thank you.
By six thirty she was ready, waiting for him in her best dress, a sleeveless velvet bodice
with toile over it and down the length of the skirt, which went to the floor, he’d said they’d go
somewhere, where they’d have a grand time. It didn’t matter to her if he was a bit, awkward; she’d grown used to him. At her door, he arrived in tuxedo, a look she wasn’t accustomed to seeing him in; he’d worn work boots, jeans and flannel shirts the entire time, and gave her the bouquet of white roses in his hand. Averie invited him in, while she put the flowers in water. She’d been severely duped and told him so, his was a quick apology, which he had planned anyway. He explained that it was so she wouldn’t get herself into situations, he’d have to get her out of, since he had to help her with his grandfather. Averie understood his reasoning. They left her apartment, arm in arm.
Once outside the building, he kissed her hand for all to see. Saying after, she was the
interest of any man who wanted more, and hoped her husband or boyfriend didn’t mind his taking her out for the night. Stunned by his admission, she replied, she didn’t have either. Mathias was elated, not liking complications to the things he wanted. As he, not the chauffer, opened the town car door open for her, he held out his other hand, to help her in. During their drive, Averie confessed her thinking; that he was to unfamiliar with the city to be of help to her. He smiled, saying he’d lived there until age seventeen, when they moved, then confessed he had to make her think so, to keep her from wanting to go with him into any possibly harmful situations, adding that he’d been very entertained by her reactions, finding them extremely funny. She admitted she probably would have wanted to go, and insisted he take her along and as far as being amused by her, it wasn’t half as much, as she was by him. Having cleared almost all their secrets from their conscience, they enjoyed each other’s company the rest of the way.
When they entered the restaurant at the top of the Hotel, Lucien, the head waiter,
saw a sophisticated couple, who he’d personally take care of. Then, and after speaking with
them, determined they weren’t just that, but also gracious people. They’d danced through
two songs, their mutual fondness for the fox trot was seen by the other couples on the floor. They sat out the rest out, preferring to listen to the music and getting to know each other. Averie was up front about her personal status, she’d not been clear earlier, turning to him, saying she was divorced. Mathias had the same answer, he too was divorced, then admitted what he did for a living; he was an attorney, like his father and grandfather. It was a huge surprise, she’d never have guessed, ever. She thought she was a smart legal secretary, but he’d been able to fool her about everything. It made her laugh, loud enough to disrupt the next table, finding the irony in; an attorney, who was pursuing an attorney; who was trying to kill an attorney. He found himself hypnotized by her qualities; determined, kind, docile, quick thinking, impeccably mannered and dressed, and her stoic bravery; she admired the same in him as much now, as she had before. Averie asked him how it was, that an attorney like Kyle, who defended criminals, could think that he’d get away with murder. Mathias said he didn’t know it mattered what a criminal did for a living. She understood his meaning; that it didn’t really. He stated his observation of her; she was divorced because her husband didn’t like her thinking about things. Her response; he was divorced because he didn’t like that his wife, didn’t think about things. They both had it right; and so was the start of a very happy couple.