Benders Luck: Return the Gemini

Bender’s luck
Return the Gemini
Karen Wittkamm
(c) 2014

The sound of a telephone ring awoke Averie abruptly, she answered it refreshed from the night sleep she had.  Mathias asked if he’d disturbed her, she stretched her limbs replying no, she had to get up anyway and added she planned to call him.  He was anxious to hear her version of the events over the past few weeks, prompting her not skip over anything.  She propped herself against her pillows as she began to give him the entire story. He listened patiently to her account and the wonderful quality of her voice which he missed.  When she finished she asked if he’d be in town anytime soon, he told her he couldn’t give her an answer, he simply wasn’t certain.  Mathias didn’t tell her he was fairly certain it would be by the end of the following week.

  Averie sighed, at least he indicated he was returning so she would get to see him again, if for no other reason than as a friend.  So strong were her feelings for him that she felt a clump of cry in her throat as they said goodbye. She knew despite being immensely disappointed over Mathias she had to regain herself and continue to date the single men she knew were interested in her and not pine over someone she hardly knew.

To keep her thoughts occupied during the next week Averie went to work, did her errands and went out to dinner Monday through Thursday with her sister and friends, only a few times did Mathias creep in and distract her.  By Friday, with having been around people from sun up to sun down every day, when her sister invited her over, Averie declined, confessing to being too drained of energy. She cleaned up her desk, said goodbye to Bartholomew and headed home.  Unbeknownst to her Mathias arrived that morning at Bartholomew’s to stay until he could find a place to live.

 She looked around as she trudged exhausted up the steps of her building. The seasons had evolved from fall into winter and with it came it’s cold windy air, which swept her hair up, numbed her face and howled in her ears. Illuminating the nightfall, the moon seemed at its full brightness and down her street the trees resembled mysterious disjointed fingers reaching up from the icy ground. Entering the warmth of the building foyer made Averie’s eyes become heavy, making her nearly fall asleep as she leaned against the wall awaiting the elevators arrival.  Making her way down the hall of her floor she kept her eyes open just enough to find her apartment key on her ring, when she looked up to insert it her eyes widened as she saw a folded note taped to the door. With her free hand she pulled it off but disregarded it as something Mrs. Hornsey probably left and went inside.  Not being curious to see what it said she tossed it, along with her keys and purse on the table then headed to her bedroom to change into comfortable clothes.

There it sat as she made herself hot cocoa, turned on the television and settled herself onto the couch to watch news before bed. After hearing the whether forecast for the upcoming week she rose to go to bed, the note caught her eye, she thought she ought to at least see what it was that her neighbor wanted. It was brief, simply saying “Return the Gem n i we know where your families is”.  Baffled by the message Averie smirked; what did the Gem n i mean?  Nothing to her.  She wondered what chain of events had Kyle’s crime set off? Now it seemed all she had were continuous mysteries and this was the weirdest one yet.  With both hands she crumpled up the note and left it on her coffee table, too weary to think about it she rubbed the back of her neck and went to bed.

Breakfast for Averie consisted of coffee, toast and some cut up melon. After opening the newspaper to read the what was happening in the world over the past week someone gave a brisk knock at her door, she ruled out Mrs. Hornsey, hers was a rapid succession of taps which could be avoided on occasion depending on her mood to visit with anyone.  She wondered if it was possibly about the note that was left the night before.  Averie peered through the peep hole and to her astonishment it was Mathias.  As she opened the door, he entered, took her in his arms, kissed her in the way she would understand he was back in town for her.  Her arms clasped him around the neck with mutual desire.  Absentmindedly in his excitement he put the folded note he took off her door on the hall table as she led him to the kitchen.  They breakfasted together, talking about all they’d missed while apart.  He was glad to see that she’d kept him in her thoughts and not been romanced away from him by another man and assured her he was entirely hers for the day.  Snow that began during the night and was continuing gave them cause to lounge around the house for a few hours before going out.

 He noticed Averie’s waded up paper on the coffee table which reminded him of the note.  He brought it to her explaining he’d taken it off the door.  She looked at him queerly, picked up and unfolded the prior nights note and asked him to read it before she opened the second note. He laughed, commenting that they certainly didn’t know how to spell Gemini.  Averie repeated to him, Gemini?  Mathias said that’s how he read it, Gem n i put together is Gemini, or at least that’s what it seems to say unless she knew different.  She answered that she didn’t know what either way meant and was unaware what it could be other than a threat to someone.  He insisted she open the next note.  Reluctantly she did, it was in the same vane, “Return the Gem n i you have one week or else your family will get it”.  To attempt to figure out whether these were meant for Averie or mistakenly placed on her door they sat down on the sofa.

 Mathias, because he knew the threat couldn’t go ignored, began questioning whether she could think what Gemini could be, she said she couldn’t think of anything.  He thought it a good idea to just say the word Gemini to the neighbors and get their reaction, perhaps that would lead them to who’s door the notes were meant for.  With Averie in the lead, she knowing all her neighbors, she knocked and as they opened their door and quietly said Gemini before introducing Mathias to them.  Three of them laughed and said it back to her jokingly, the other four asked if she was feeling alright, saying their sign was not Gemini, then gave their horoscope sign.  They finished with the last neighbor at the far end of the hall opposite the elevator and could tell none of them knew anything about the word or meaning of it, which possibly ruled them out.  They’d not noticed the stocky, disheveled , wild brown haired man who’d come out of the elevator who headed for Averie’s door as they stood discussing what could be done next.

  The man just finished taping another note to her when he caught sight of them and they of him. Mathias bolted toward him but he’d pushed open the fire escape door and jumped down the stairs three at a time, Mathias was agile but didn’t have the acrobatic leg’s of the man, because even with all his effort the man was down on the first floor and gone.  With a growl of anger he made his way to the elevator and back to Averie. She sat silent, the note open in her hand, there was no mistake in their minds as they read the next note “Return the Gem n i to Bender’s office in the men’s bathroom in the trash can”. Mathias, deeply concerned for Averie’s safety their knowledge about all of her whereabouts made him forceful with her, insisting she go over anything that may give a clue to what it was about and who these people were.

 Averie became distraught by the fact that they’d returned to her apartment and they knew where her family and Bartholomew were. Laying her head upon the sofa pillow, she racked her brain what it all could be about.  After consideration, the only thing out of the ordinary was the episode with the Purson’s she told him.  Because they made it personal to him by pursuing those he loved and cared about he asked her to carefully go over every movement of contact she had with them once more, which she did. He concluded when she was done, that somehow they got the idea that she’d taken something called Gemini while she was in the apartment with the Purson’s woman. Averie recalled being told they had committed robberies and perhaps Gemini was something they’d stolen. Mathias agreed. With no delay he asked her to get ready because they had to take the notes to Raptie right away before anything happened to her, her family or Bartholomew. She gathered her things and led him out the building.

Detective Raptie was surprised and not so glad to see them when they walked in the station, suspecting they’d been involved in some way in another plot. They gave him the notes. While he read them Mathias asked if Averie, her family and Bartholomew could get protection until whomever was after the Gemini was caught. Raptie said the best they could do with nothing further to go on was to increase patrols around their homes and Bartholomew’s office. That wasn’t reassuring Mathias, he needed more to be done and clearly he’d have to be the one to do it; covertly of coarse. Raptie told them the Purson’s were in fact involved in robberies in the past, one of which was residential and some valuable statues and artwork, along with jewels were taken and haven’t been recovered so it was possible that Gemini has to do with that and he’d find out from the victim’s, but in the mean time, he’d be glad to hear about any further information Mathias happened to obtain without trespassing on private property. He grinned, Raptie’d gotten his point across, so he agreed to not overstep propriety. Raptie grunted approval, not certain whether Mathias considered breaking and entering as overstepping propriety.

Mathias couldn’t bear how upset Averie was as they drove back to her apartment, he never wanted her to be burdened or have anguish while he lived. With that thought he tried to make her confident that all would be fine, she sighed that there had to be meaning in the fact that they kept being entwined with solving crimes, and with that being the case, she’d been looking into getting a private investigator’s license, which now she was convinced was what she wanted to do. After she’d said that, he was notably silent, because what she didn’t know was he’d already begun the process to obtain his for such eventualities back in Montana. When he made the declaration to her she laughed at how very alike they were, even apart from each other.

Once home Averie called her dad telling him all that transpired. He, rarely if ever became angry at her or her sister, but his blood boiled that she’d been involved in things of a life threatening nature. In an attempt to calm him she promised to be over to see him and her mom in the morning, he insisted that she bring the young man who is her cohort in her capers. She groaned because this was not the way she wanted her parents to meet Mathias, he asked if there were a problem with them meeting him, she quickly said no, none at all, she groaned because she forgot something. While she’d been on the phone with her dad Mathias was on his with Bartholomew to apprise him of the situation. The elderly man said he’d pay extra attention to those around the office.

After they’d both finished their calls, Mathias asked her to show him the apartment the Purson’s had lived in. The two went up, when she showed it to him he analyzed the door, then knocked but there was no answer. Hopeful that their property hadn’t been removed since their arrest he began to pick the lock with a tool he’d kept with him ever since the Kyle case. As he worked away at it Averie’s eyes darted up and down the hall, when he heard the tumbler click Mathias tried the handle which turned open, taking her arm, they went in. He didn’t need to tell her what to look for, she knew it would be something related to the zodiak or anything that would be of value, since they may have stolen it.

Not touching anything, they used the tail ends of their shirts to open drawers and turn handles. Averie stopped for a minute when it crossed her mind that maybe the wording they were using was wrong, maybe it wasn’t Gemini but rather Gem in eye. She asked Mathias his opinion, he thought it a possibility, so they continued with two different types of items in mind. Fifteen minutes passed before Mathias came across a three foot tall sculpture of Tyche the Greek Goddess of fortune on a pedestal next to the china cabinet in the dining room. He used his phone to pull up a photo of it and with close inspection of her eyes there was a distinct change to them. What in the photo were smaller circular indentations, what he was looking at were quarter sized protrusions, which he thought if it were altered, could be stones with colored plaster over it.

He called out to Averie to come and watch as he scratched off the layer to expose whatever was beneath. She was taken by the beauty of the statue as he exposed the sizable stone’s in her eyes. Mathias smiled at their ingenuity to mask gem’s that way. Slowly, carefully, Mathias used his lock picking tool to chip bits at a time of the plaster and within minutes radiant diamonds began to appear in each eye. The size and color captivated them, they were exquisite. They realized the problem they now faced with Raptie their Scottish law enforcer; how to explain their being in the apartment and tampering with private property. There was nothing to do but call him and tell him what they’d done and their discovery, as painful as it possibly could be for them.

The call was brief, Mathias heard the anger in the detective’s voice as he said he’d be right over with officers but he gave no further indication of what trouble they were in. Impatiently the pair waited with the goddess. Raptie didn’t waste a minute, within fifteen minutes he was there. Much to their surprise the discussion they had with him was not as hostile as Mathias and Averie thought it would be, in fact he actually needed them to lure in whomever it was that was after the diamond, because clearly they believed Averie had it in her possession and were going to get from her very soon. Raptie said he’d have realistic copies of the diamonds made and brought to her by five o’clock and for them to go about their business until that time so they were visible.

Neither one of them took Raptie’s request to be precarious, it was something that needed to be done to apprehend not only the man who left the notes but those behind threatening Averie and her family, they accepted enthusiastically. During the following hours they traveled through the ever increasing snow to several shops for groceries, to a car dealership for Mathias to buy a car and then to buy wood for her fireplace. As sundown was nearing it became too cold to do any more outdoors and if they were being followed they were going to have to be found at her apartment.

Averie’s apartment was cold when they arrived and since they both had to wait for the police to bring the replica diamonds at five, she changed out of her wet boots, clothes and got him dry things to put on until his dried, while she was busy Mathias started the logs in the fireplace. Opening her closet doors her hands pushed her things to the right, she’d become well prepared for any visitors because often times her friends or family would unexpectedly decide to stay over night, especially her parents and sister so she had a couple of hangers with bags containing extra new toothbrushes, combs and assorted sleepwear.

He didn’t question why she had men’s apparel when she appeared with the packaged toothbrush, comb and the robe with slippers her dad used on his visits, he trusted her and with that came confidence in her reasoning. As she handed the bundle to him she informed him of who used the them, he touched her face gently telling her he hadn’t one doubt that she loved him as much as he loved her. A smile of exaltation appeared on her face, he reciprocated with one, having hit upon her true feelings with absolute approval.

The police showed up a little after five, explained that she was to leave the stones out in the open in case her apartment were broken into and if she were home she’d have immediate access to them if those wanting them came to the door. She set them on the table by the door with her keys then let them out, agreeing that she’d call if anything happened. Mathias picked them up and admired the craftsmanship, they looked like the true diamonds, in color, cut and
clarity. Averie had other things on her mind because with the delivery complete she hesitated, knowing she couldn’t send Mathias home in the snow with wet clothes, they were still hung up in the shower drying along with hers, so he’d be staying over. Without prompting and with an innocent grin he said he’d be fine sleeping on the sofa. She chuckled at his perceptive nature, he’d gotten around any intimate questions of where she’d ask him to sleep. For an hour they watched the rest of a nineteen forties comedy in black and white then she went to her room for one of the most restful nights sleeps she’d had since realizing she loved and cared about Mathias and whether or not she’d ever see him again.

The morning brought all the splendor of a chilly winter’s day ahead for them. Averie told him of her plans to see her parents and hoped he would be willing to undergo questions from her dad who wanted to meet him. Mathias shrugged, asking if he needed to be prepared to pull out his resume. She started laughing, categorically insisting he didn’t. He explained that he had to go to Bartholomew’s shower, change clothes, return his rental car and pick up his car from the dealer but would get all his things done by early afternoon if her parents were agreeable to the time. Pushing the numbers on her phone she said she’d soon find out and they were free at two o’clock, the hour was set. Mathias wasn’t intimidated by meeting parents, not as he was as a young man when meeting his first wife’s. She too had errands which needed to be done so would meet him back at her apartment at one-thirty. His protective reaction came unconsciously from him, he paused and calmly reminded her that people were trying to get at her, that going out alone was not possible and she’d have to have either him or someone else she trusted to go with her, preferably a man who could and would be able to handle any type of assault.

The feeling of her life being controlled by others was disconcerting, she’d always been free to live her life unimpeded. She agreed and if none of her male friends was free she’d wait to do them with him after they’d been to her parents. He stuck out her hand to shake on it, which she did. Throughout the morning they sent messages about her home bound status, until finally she sent the one saying her very muscular athletic friend Zeke would be going with her and she’d see him later. Each took care of what needed to be done but Mathias not as easy of mind as Averie, fearing there may be a moment when Zeke weren’t looking and she’d be targeted.

Zeke kept surveillance as Averie went about her shopping, though she reduced the time she would normally take so not to impose on her dear friend of twenty years. He’d always been there, she thought while looking at him guarding her, why they’d never dated or considered anything other than friendship she didn’t know, but he was in her mind the brother she and her sister were missing so terribly much in their lives, and he, most of the time acted like it and secretly enjoyed it, having sisters of his own. They returned to her apartment at twelve only to find another note, it written in a much sinister tone; you’ve got two days left so don’t let blood be shed leave the Gem n i in the men’s bathroom. Zeke gave her no choice, he was staying until Mathias came. With no protest from her she made them lunch.

Mathias was at her apartment by one with a winter rose bouquet to cheer her up since she was concerned over her families welfare. Zeke asked who it was when Mathias knocked, he answered and was admitted in by one of the biggest built men he’d possibly ever seen. Not meaning to stare at Zeke’s size, he couldn’t stop until the handshake the massive man gave him cracked the bones in his palm. Averie took the flowers, thanking Mathias quickly and held out the newest note to him. He read it and found it brazen considering they must know that he was involved and possibly the police. Mathias called Raptie, telling him what it then waited for instructions. The only reply Raptie had was to keep to the plan because they would surface soon enough to collect the stones but not telling him that officers were stationed inside and around the building and one had seen the man who left the note.

As Zeke was about to leave he leaned over, took her by the waist and gave Averie a sensual kiss, which she smirked at when he let her go for trying to get Mathias jealous, it only made him laugh and say he had to get at least one good one in while he still could. Mathias agreed that he should because it was to be his last. Averie blushed, certain she’d found the right man at this time in her life, then she ushered he and Mathias out, grabbed her purse and they parted by their cars.

Any meeting a man had with her dad, since she and her first husband divorced hadn’t gone well. His questions were extremely personal and he let them know he’d be verifying all the information they gave. With each question Mathias answered confidently, quickly and honestly, there not being anything he feared her dad knowing about him. Albert, being the greatest supporter of his daughters and guarder of their safety felt comfortable that what Mathias was saying was true, and it helped that he had his military, law and other identification in his wallet for proof. Her mother Cheryl was just as relentless in her questions but was more interested in his family and upbringing. Towards the end of their meeting Averie thought it went well enough to invite them all over for dinner on the following weekend, they accepted with anticipation.

While Mathias drove Averie home she told him since they both had work in the morning, she would be fine with everything locked up so he needn’t stay over. He looked at her as though he disagreed completely but she repeated herself and promised to call him in the morning as she was leaving. There was no arguing with her he could see, so reluctantly he agreed to her terms.

It was an uneventful night for Averie, no attempt at break in nor strangers knocking at her door. She Mathias as promised and got to work early to leave the stones in the men’s bathroom, which wasn’t what Raptie asked her to do but she wanted the criminals to get them and be gone. Bartholomew was waiting for her when she entered and in rapid succession asked why she didn’t stay with friends, let Mathias stay over or get a guard dog for protection. She answered just as quickly back that all were inconvenient at the moment but she was staying alert and hopeful that the police were going to catch the people any time now. He not satisfied but unable to persuade her differently huffed off to his office and she proceeded to do her work. Mathias was in minutes after their conversation but she said nothing about it, keeping their greeting pleasant and talking about the upcoming weeks calendar and pending cases. It was so normal that she completely forgot she’d put the stone’s in the trash until hours later when men yelling outside the office in the hall broke out. She called Bartholomew’s extension and Mathias, who’s door was open, came out to see what the disturbance was.

Raptie opened their door and behind him they saw two officers holding a different man than the one who’d taped the notes. He had short cropped black hair, a blue suit and deep set hazel eyes, which caught sight of Averie and stared at her in utter hatred. Mathias saw the evil in his gaze and took her around the shoulder to show his protection of her, which only made the man transfer his anger over to Mathias. Instructing the officers to take him to the station he then came in and sat down in one of the lobby chairs, Bartholomew joined him to listen to the whole story. Mathias sat on the corner of Averie’s desk and she took her seat in relief that they caught the man or men. The detective was pleased with himself that he thought she wouldn’t completely follow his directions, in fact he counted on it, so he had an officer hidden in one of the stalls every minute over the past day in hopes she would bring the stones to the bathroom and they’d be there to apprehend the thieves who were working with the Purson’s, which sure enough she did.

Averie let Raptie know she was perturbed that he didn’t inform her that she’d was expected to not follow his directions and left to her own common sense, asking if he would let his family or himself be in danger without taking action. He said he’d have done the same thing if it were he or his own and the main thing was that all was well with her family, herself, the real diamonds returned to their owner and the rest of the Purson’s accomplices caught. To Mathias and Averie’s surprise Raptie invited Bartholomew to have dinner this evening at six thirty when his shift was over, he being a widower would like to have his company for some interesting conversation over a thick steak. Bartholomew jumped at his request and looked forward to it. Raptie rose, shook Mathias and Averie’s hands, saying he couldn’t say it was nice to meet them again because he was fairly sure they’d be around to see him in the near future then told Bartholomew he would pick him up at his apartment, remembering the address from his case and left.

Bartholomew retreated down the hall to his office mumbling that he didn’t know how to keep those two out of trouble. Mathias laughed and asked which two he meant, with a slow turn he grinned at his grandson and left the question unanswered.

Bender’s luck: Purson’s unknown

Benders Luck
Purson’s unknown
Karen Wittkamm
(c) 2014

The evening for Averie and Mathias quickly came to an end as the waiters began clearing off the tables, the band packed up their instruments and the other patron’s began exiting the restaurant.  He pulled out her chair, took her hand and led her toward the door, smiling as she gently clasped his big hand back.  It had been a long time since he’d had a woman so close, not having the inclination to pursue romance once again, having almost given up on the prospect, with the possibility of incompatibility as his deterrent.

Fall’s cool misty air brushed across their faces as they stepped out into the street. Mathias and Averie walked silently to their awaiting car which was behind others.  He didn’t want to end the evening with the words he’d be leaving, even though he’d be back within weeks since he decided that he wanted to, with his grandfather’s approval, work in the firm with he and Averie.  With his plan to sell off his share of his partnership being the case, he knew he would be back as soon as his business and affairs were taken care of back home.  Averie searched her brain for something to say but nothing came, resigning herself to being a woman Mathias met under exceptionally strange circumstances.

They spoke of their hobbies and interests on the way to Averie’s apartment but became silent as their car took the final corner of her street. The driver, being astute enough at the start of the evening to see their interest in each other, drove as slow as possible.  He pulled up in front of Averie’s building, opened their door and got back in so they could speak freely.  Mathias followed Averie as she walked to the steps of her building. He took her hand at the first step, began to bend in to kiss her when the two glass doors above them swung open furiously, people spilled out down the stairs.  They were stunned by the quickness of it, Mathias looked at Averie asking if she knew who they were, she nodded yes saying they are the Purson’s from the third floor but she’d never met them and only knew that because the Superintendent spoke of them and how elusive they’d been since moving in four months prior. He’d told her that they said they did some sort of trade business.  As the group pushed past them they were talking excitedly but inaudibly, huddling close to each other, keeping their eyes on Mathias and Averie on the sidewalk.  The Purson’s got into different cars and sped away just as quickly as they walked.  Mathias immediately picked up where he’d left off with Averie, kissing her more passionately than he’d intended but without remorse.  She couldn’t bring herself to get deeply into it, fearful she wouldn’t be able to say goodbye. She thanked him for a terrific night out then went inside with the pang of regretful sorrow that separations bring.

Her apartment seemed a little quieter and less homey than she’d left it just hours before.  She’d been happily single until meeting Mathias but the longing to be with him made her surroundings look as they were, solitary.  As she tossed her keys on her table a scream came from what she thought came was the hall, then people began to run and yells She couldn’t make out what was being said so cautiously she cracked open her front door, enough to get her head out.  Instantly she caught sight of Mrs. Hornsey from the third floor hurrying out of the elevator as the doors opened, calling out to those on her floor who’d already heard the news and had congregated that the Superintendent was found dead in the hall on her floor only ten minutes earlier.  Averie cringed at the thought of any other crime and began to close her door.  Just as she’d got it shut, Mrs. Hornsey’s excited voice urged her to please re-open and admit her. The woman was so gravely upset she couldn’t refuse.

Without delay the woman took Averie around the shoulder insisting that because she’d helped the police to apprehend the suspect in the Bender case no one was expecting her to get involved with this even though Mr. Wildner thought very highly of her and always spoke of her kindly to everyone.  Being as tired as she was these were the words of guilt to make her feel compelled to continue listening to Mrs. Hornsey. The woman sat down making herself comfortable as if she planned to stay for quite some time.  She recounted her evening out at the theater until eleven thirty then coming home but was unable to sleep so she opened the book she’d been reading, asking Averie if she’d read it, Averie said she hadn’t.

Speaking over Averie she continued describing the loud noise of wrestling she heard going on close by and how she called the police, then waited for ruffly fifteen minutes after it stopped before opening her door to investigate. Her face went pale as she, with detail, said that was when she saw Mr. Wildner lying face down in the hall with semi-coagulated blood saturating the back of his shirt in several spots and upon touching him that he had no pulse and was dead.  Averie assured her that the culprits were probably far away and that they in the building were probably safe and asked calmly if she’d like her to take her back to her floor, she said she would.

Quite some time had passed because when they came out of the elevator everyone who’d been out of their apartments were back inside and the police were working over the crime scene but allowed Mrs. Hornsey to get back to hers.  Averie’s eyes widened as she recognized detective Raptie, the Scotsman whom she and Mathias worked with for Bartholomew’s case.  He came at her with a grin as he approached and asked if there was something she perhaps knew about this.  Indignant she said no, why would she, she’d not even been home until just after it happened or possibly as it was happening.  Pressing her for information he continued, asking if she knew Mr. Wildner well enough to know who may have done this to him. She shook her head sadly no, adding that he seemed the most improbable person to have this happen too, describing him to Raptie as kind, industrious and non-intrusive.  As she was speaking she noted Wildner’s location. It was three doors away from Mrs. Hornsey, yet Mrs. Hornsey could hear the scuffle in her room, it must have been some fight he put up to be that loud.

 As Raptie asked what she’d been doing the night, she was taken back to the way the Purson’s had left the building, but didn’t see any connection there, just because people leave so late at night full of energy the way they did, it doesn’t mean they have committed murder.  Baptie noticed her eyes surveying the area and asked what she saw or was thinking, she shrugged, saying it was nothing, only being tired from a long day. He told her she could go but to be available for further questions if needed, she agreed and went down to her floor.

The time was irrelevant to Averie as she opened her eyes, this day was Mathias’ leaving, she wanted to have a quiet day to remember him, their exploits and of coarse Mr. Wildner.  Mid-morning came, she tidied up her apartment, organized drawers and began reading articles about the latest laws that were passed in the city which she’d clipped from the newspaper.  Without prompting or any reminder, the thought of how the Purson’s left the building last night flashed in her head; was it as curious as it seemed or simply her imagination?  Her phone buzzed with a text message, “Leaving now, keep out of trouble, Mathias”.  His words made her smile and chuckle with laughter making her feel warm, quickly she wrote back, “Will do. You too. Averie”.

He replied Absolutely, but there was so much more he wanted to put in that message but didn’t dare, at least not yet, not until he had answers about when he’d be back.  It was not unfathomable that if things did not proceed quickly back home that it could be some time before he’d be back and how could he ask someone he’d kissed once, nor knew the extent of her feelings for him, if any other than friend, to wait for an indefinite time.  There was an instant he wished something would happen that would make Averie call him for assistance again so he could delay but there was no other text from her. With disappointment he got into the waiting car with Bartholomew.

Had it not been for Mrs. Hornsey’s knock at her door, Averie would have begun to cry of sadness for what she wanted to develop with Mathias but couldn’t.  She opened the door for her upstairs neighbor whom she knew, though not that well, but still asked her in and offered her something to drink.  The woman, who had plainly had an unpleasant night sleep agreed to tea if there was any. Averie said there was and went to the kitchen, briefly returning with two steaming cups.  They settled in for a chat about the previous night. Averie brought up the Purson’s behavior and asked if she’d met them. Mrs. Hornsey gave no reaction to what Averie said about the way they’d left intimating that it may have been coincidence and nothing more, then explained she in fact had met them when they first moved in and on a few subsequent occasions in passing but did not speak to them in depth.

 As the woman continued with her hypothesis about what happened and who may have killed Mr. Wildner, Averie’s mind went back to the group. She tried to recall exactly how many there were; three women, 4 men?  No, that didn’t seem right.  Then as she looked at Mrs. Hornsey’s brocade skirt suit and using her way around fashion, began to piece together the coats she’d seen them wearing.  There was the woman with a fox stoll on, the two men with dark overcoats, one woman had a fur lined collared wool dark brown coat and another wore a long white wool coat, then lastly, three men had no coat on, that was all, she was certain.  She moved on, as Mrs. Hornsey’s kept talking, to whether or not she could remember hearing anything they said that she may have heard but didn’t think about.  There was nothing that came to mind but trying to listen to Mrs. Hornsey at the same time left concentration futile.

Mathias’ looked at the land below as they prepared to arrive, it reminded him how much he loved living there, he did however love Averie more and would sacrifice more than that for her. His dad met him at the terminal, anxious to hear how his father was doing since he’d left. His son gave him all the details, even about Averie, not caring whether his dad wanted to hear about his decision to move or not. Gregory Bender hmm’d his way through everything Mathias was saying, extremely interested but not wanting to interrupt with questions, though he had many, especially about the woman whom his son was describing as intelligent, funny and quick at deduction. Gregory agreed that Bartholomew had much to thank Averie for and knew his father enough to know he’d show his appreciation substantially for his life saving, which was more than above what would be asked or expected of someone.

At the close of Mrs. Hornsey’s account of Mr. Wildner’s death the two women said goodbye and Averie picked up her reading only to squirm with frustration at not being able to focus on it, the gnawing question over the Purson’s and whether she should tell Detective Baptie what she saw weighed on her mind. She speculated that if she went up to their apartment before the police met with them and casually brought up the subject, perhaps that would give her some feeling one way or the other about their knowledge of the events. Averie hurried and changed her clothes, bearing in mind that what she did know of the women from the few times she’d seen them, they dressed extremely well so she’d have to give the impression of status and would hopefully be taken into their confidence.

Once again for the second time in the week the elevator doors opened. Stepping out Averie was anxious whether or not she should be doing this, since these people were unfamiliar and possibly murderers. She counted the doors as she slowly walked the hall, Mrs. Hornsey said they were the third door across from hers. With her nerve worked up she knocked quickly but solidly on the door and stepped back letting them get a good look at her for reassurance of her innocent intention. Laughing voices neared the door from the other side, it opened and two of the women from the previous night smiled and asked how they could help her, not seeming to recognize her from passing on the steps, nor any other time in the building.

She stood still thinking quickly, saying she’d lost an earring last night when she was hastened off the floor by the police after dropping off her friend and did they happen to find it, then proceeding to describe it as a pearl surrounded by little diamonds. They looked at each other saying they hadn’t. Averie looked disappointingly at them adding it seems such a trivial thing especially since the poor man was killed. They agreed but didn’t show any sign of sincere regret over his lost life. She couldn’t derive anything from that since they probably didn’t know him well, then added that it must have been terrifying to open their door only to find he was there lying in the hall; knowing they had left before Mr. Wildner was found.

It showed on their faces that her statement took the women by surprise to be asked about the incident but their demeanor became suddenly saddened saying that yes it was horrible, they were woken up by the fighting but only looked out their door, though didn’t go into the hall and they quickly went back in, fearing the murderer was still in the hall. Averie sighed in sympathy over their dilemma, thanked them and said she had resigned herself to probably never seeing the earring again. Thanking them again for their time and could hear the door close as she turned and took her first step away. Not fully able to believe she had something worth giving Raptie she frantically pushed the elevator button, made her way back home and called the police station where she’d met him. She was transferred to Raptie’s office, he answered but sounded tired in her opinion, but still she relayed what she and Mathias had seen and the conversation she just had with the women. He thanked her for once again getting good details and said he was just leaving to question the residents of the building. The detective asked her to please stay there, he’d see her soon. Her desire to text Mathias and fill him in on what occurred was overwhelming, she couldn’t do it though, he was gone and if the police needed his version they would call him.

Raptie asked Wildner’s neighbors on the first floor if he had unusual visitors, his hours, any personal affairs of his they knew of. They gave him what information they had and after getting the few bits he moved on to the second floor. After interviewing Averie’s neighbors he was at her door. She let him in, glad to contribute anything else to what little she did thus far. He acknowledged his appreciation of her interest in finding whomever committed the crime and assured her the officers were well qualified to handle leads. She insisted she hoped she’d not implied that they didn’t. Raptie gave a nod excusing her and asked where Mathias could be found for questioning. With a sigh she told him he was back at his home in Montana. He said he’d be in contact if he had anything further to ask and for her to keep him apprised of anything suspicious that she may see or hear without getting involved. Averie grinned, agreeing she would even though she’d not been looking to be involved in the first place.

Monday morning she recounted the details of her very busy weekend to Bartholomew, who appreciated that he’d been spared the same fate by her and Mathias. As she concluded he suggested, as a gesture of gratitude, they go to dinner and attend any play, musical or ballet of her choosing. She accepted the invitation, recommending the opera if agreeable to him, he nodded it was and said he’d make the dinner reservations once she made the theater plans. It was Thursday when Mathias called the office asking Averie to tell him what she knew, which she did, then without hesitation he asked to be put through to Bartholomew. She was suspicious of how matter of fact he was with her, there was no inquiring how she was and didn’t bring up whether or not he’d spoken to the police. Within ten minutes Bartholomew was out of his office and standing at her desk with a look of intensity on his face. She asked if anything were wrong. Her boss paused as though there were, reluctantly he began to tell her what it was that Mathias called for. Bartholomew pulled up a lobby chair to her desk and repeated what Mathias told him, that the subject of the Purson’s came up when Raptie called him and asked, since Mathias knew her best, whether or not she would be capable of making acquaintances with the Purson’s without getting personally involved with their investigation, adding that they were not currently suspects but since the Purson’s were unknown to all in the building he didn’t have enough to go on to completely eliminate them either.

Averie sat back in her chair in disbelief, hadn’t she already proven to Raptie she was indeed competent to get information descreetly? and because Raptie hadn’t asked her directly. Bartholomew insisted that it didn’t sound like his intent at all but merely to make absolutely certain she would not put herself in harms way and could be relied upon to get help before, emphasizing before, difficulties or danger arose. She was delighted over their concern for her safety, it was clear they did it because they cared, it was the way they did it however, that irked her, but that was for another day and discussions with Raptie and Mathias. He saw the momentary displeasure she had, but had to continue and gave his opinion that if things were kept on a upfront congenial basis, with all information passed along to the police, and if she didn’t nose around in their things then she wouldn’t put herself in any type of legal trouble. She agreed that she would do it. Averie called Raptie’s office, leaving a message to call her at home in the evening. As the time to get off work neared, she put all her things together, folded up the list of things she’d need in order to befriend the Purson women, told Bartholomew goodnight and left.

Walking through the parking garage to her car she called her grandmother, who was the only one she knew who still had and used a real silver fox coat, and asked to borrow it for a week or two. Her granny said of coarse and knew they’d come back in fashion someday. A stop by at her granny’s was just that, she promised to be back over the weekend for a long visit but today she had to meet up with some people. With the coat in tow, the days being to mild to put it on but the nights got cold enough to wear it, she made her way home and once out of her car she flung the fur over her shoulder like it was her daily attire, then walked stylishly up to the steps in case she ran into the Purson’s. She stopped, pretended to be searching her purse for something, because if there was a coat on earth to catch the eye of women with expensive taste and desirous of all things couture this was it, it shimmered in the sunlight like a blanket of ice, her grandpa paid premium for it and it showed in its design and construction. There were no admirers approaching so she took it up to her apartment to try this evening when they could possibly be around.

At ten o’clock Averie, uncertain of where she was going to go in the coat, took it from the sofa and left her warm apartment, but with all luck there’d be at least one of the Purson women going out or coming in who’d stop and talk to her. To her astonishment her plan worked immediately. Before she’d gotten to the bottom of the steps one of the women was behind her calling out to her to please wait, she had to see the coat. She obliged as the woman introduced herself as Javleen Pursons and begged to touch the coat, Averie smiled as she held it forward under the street lamp, and to her amazement there was no mistaking that the women was actually purring as she touched it. Whether or not it was absentminded or not, the women began spewing out personal information about herself; she lived on the third floor with her brothers and sisters, but for how much longer she didn’t know, her brothers ran the family business which made them move around often so she hadn’t had the chance to get to know many neighbors. Averie gave a false name and asking if she’d like to come over for dinner the following evening. Javleen was thrilled but declined, she had to stay home while her siblings went out but quickly invited Averie to come over for awhile for coffee after they left. Enthusiastically she accepted, giving Javleen her phone number, having perhaps only this chance to get into their apartment and see if they had any sort of connection to Mr. Wildner’s death, or at least what sort of trade they were in. Feeling good about how quickly she’d gotten an invitation in, she put on the coat, went to her car, got some unnecessary papers and returned home to bed.

She picked up her phone as soon as she awoke to call Raptie. He was glad to hear she’d quickly gained access to the Pursons’ and was adamant she didn’t put herself in any questionable position, she was to get only information and look around. She said she wouldn’t. The entire day her thoughts were centered on the best approach to extract private details about the family, hoping that Javleen would speak as freely as she did the night before. At quarter after seven her phone rang with an unknown number on the screen, when she answered it was Javleen saying it was alright for her to come up. Averie grabbed the coat, the enticement it might take for Javleen to feel comfortable, and went up.

The door was opened as soon as she knocked, Javleen reached for the coat to hang up as she greeted Averie, as if she were the first visitor she’d ever had. Casually she handed it over to gain Javleen’s confidence, which it proved to do. Javleen insisted on showing Averie the apartment; first they went in the bedrooms, all were lavishly furnished and clean, she spoke as they went from room to room, they then were in the kitchen where she disclosed that the nice man Mr. Wildner who’d been murdered had been in their kitchen to clean the sink drain the night before his murder. That took Averie by surprise but she didn’t show it, as she continued to look for anything that would indicate whether Raptie should investigate them further. Thus far him being in the apartment was only coincidence, he was probably in several that day so it meant nothing.

Javleen began the coffee while she continued talking, asking what Averie did for a living. Not giving Javleen any reason to suspect her reason for being there she said she was just a secretary nothing glamorous and asked in turn what she did. Javleen hesitated, after a few moments she slowly said her family was in the trade business but what they traded was confidential and apologized for being so evasive. Averie smiled warmly, apologizing for prying. She was led into the living room after her hostess put together the tray of coffee, sitting on the sofa near the chair Javleen sat herself in.

Averie leaned over to take her coffee, noticing as she did that there was sizable round brown object under Javleen’s chair, she thought it could be nothing and would ignore it if the opportunity didn’t arise to see what it was. Javleen and she had a great deal in common it turned out, they valued their family, liked the same style clothing, kept regular hours, Javleen was quick to note her siblings did not, they were often out at night but she didn’t go with them. Averie took that in but didn’t react, again nothing really to go on, her hopes were fading for any good results until Javleen excused herself to go to the restroom. When she heard the door close completely she worked her way to the side of the chair and with her handkerchief felt around for whatever it was she spotted, her hand touched it, pulled it in view and upon seeing that it was a button with semi-sticky blood on it, at first glance didn’t seem to be something that the Purson’s would wear, she wrapped it up and put it in her pocket, and if it turned out to be nothing than she’d somehow get invited back again and return it under the chair. She sat back down and when Javleen returned they carried on until Averie said she had to leave.

Back in her apartment she carefully examined the tattered old button, it had to have been on something from a decade or two ago by its style and condition. It reminded her of the sweater Wildner wore, that was it, it was almost positively the same color as his sweater. She mumbled to herself; how could it have gotten from the kitchen into the living room under the chair? the fight was in the hall, or was it? Averie, got ready for bed, tired from all the excitement of the past hours she was quickly fell asleep.

In the morning after Averie’s call, Raptie’s men who’d been investigating the case, went over and got the button from her. After several hours Forensics came back with a match of the blood on the button to Wildner’s. Raptie’s was informed by his men that the Purson’s were wanted for bank robbery in several cities to the south and suspect that Mr. Wildner was possibly in the apartment when he overheard something he shouldn’t have, giving them no choice but to dispose of him and they’ve been frantically making plans to leave the area as soon as they could get unmarked bills. He told them to pick up Javleen Purson for questioning without the others, he couldn’t imagine she’d want to take the sole blame for Wildner’s murder.

The next Averie heard about the Wildner murder was a few days later on the eight o’clock evening news, the anchor said Police had gotten confessions after a crucial piece of evidence was discovered, but they didn’t elaborate so she wasn’t sure whether it was the Purson’s or not and just as she turned the tv channel her phone rang, it was Raptie who thanked her for her contribution, adding that they were on the right track but the button, along with Javleen’s admission of his being in the apartment, confirmed what they had. She ended by saying how glad she was to have been of help.

She laid back on the sofa to watch more television when a firm knock at her door interrupted her thoughts of Mr Wildner and how much he’d be missed around the building. As Averie opened it, Mrs. Hornsey’s nose was nearly touching the door from excitement, making her jump back. The woman was talking faster than Averie could make out, finally she calmed herself, asking whether Averie heard about the upstairs neighbors being the ones who killed Mr. Wildner? Averie wanted to smile but didn’t, she behaved surprised by the news. Then the woman wondered aloud how she herself could have not seen it, being on the clever side, having done so many puzzles in her lifetime? She gave Averie no opportunity to respond to what she was saying as she continued on, asking what did she think tipped off the police and had she heard or seen something? Averie smiled, nodding no to each question and remark, thinking the Purson’s may have turned themselves in voluntarily had Mrs. Hornsey been interrogating them.  Mrs. Hornsey finally rushed away saying goodbye and that she’d have to talk to her neighbors on her floor for more details.

 With all the goings on as soon as he left, Mathias had could hardly wait for morning to call Averie to get details he was missing, but more importantly to hear her voice. With his partner buying out his share of their firm, his house in escrow, he’d be with her in a matter of weeks and hopefully when he told her she’d find it to be good news.

Bender’s Luck: Business as unusual

Bender’s Luck
Business as unusual

By Karen Wittkamm
© 2013

For the fifth year, as with each one prior, Averie Diall entered the building where she worked, got into the elevator, went up to the fifteenth floor and exited with little on her mind. Once in the office of Bender and Morgan attorney’s at law, she did her routine; put her purse in her desk drawer, wrote down messages from the answering machine, typed up the letters her bosses Bartholomew Bender and Everett Morgan had dictated into their tape recorders the previous day. Both attorney’s who were in their late sixties came in each day, hunched over their desks, and did their work.

Averie began working for them as a temporary replacement for their secretary Gail who was retiring. The woman who was in her mid-sixties showed Averie the basics, just enough to cover herself until a permanent trained legal secretary was hired. While she familiarized Averie with the job she’d be expected to do she gave a little background history about Morgan, which wasn’t much at all, only that he was married with two adult children and Bender, who wouldn’t be his usual self, because two months prior he and his son Gregory had a serious disagreement and they hadn’t spoken since, in fact so severe was it that Gregory moved his family to Montana.

Two weeks later Gail was gone. Averie, sympathetic to Bender’s situation did her best to buffer the blow of Gail’s retirement whom he’d relied on for thirty years, not to mention his son’s departure made him somewhat withdrawn. She understood both their plight; with Gail at the reigns the two men established a well respected, prosperous company and they missed her presence, but her husband’s health had declined, giving her no alternative. Through the period of strife especially Bender was undergoing, when on the rare occasion things were at a lull and he came out of his office to strike up some meaningless conversation, without giving away that she’d been told anything by Gail, Averie tried to speak of interesting things for his benefit, current movies and music, general culture events, things she imagined he would like to know about.

After another two weeks came and went she found herself still there with no mention of a replacement secretary so she continued to go on interviews at other law firms for a permanent position. Unbeknownst to her the two men discussed keeping Averie on since they found her competent and hard working and at the end of the month Bender called her in, said they liked the job she was doing and offered it to her. She was glad to accept, she’d became accustomed to their habits; coming in at nine and staying until six or seven, leaving a hefty stack of instructions for things that needed to be done in her basket and was happy not to have to undergo another interview.

Things moved swiftly from the time she started at Bender and Morgan’s and up until just a month before when Morgan announced abruptly that his health was not good and his doctor told him it was time to retire, the jolt hit Bender hard, they’d been friends and partners thirty-five years. Morgan let them know he had a buyer named Jerry Kyle for his share of the partnership who was starting escrow which would take only a few weeks and he’d stay until that time. As the purchase documents came in she saw James Kyle was twenty four, had just passed the BAR exam and had the financial means to buy the business. Over the next few weeks the two old friends spent a great deal of time together but it was still difficult on Morgan’s last day at work, Averie was fonder of him than she’d thought she was and would miss him greatly.

There was no time in Averie’s work schedule to have any anticipation of Kyle’s arrival, so on his first day she was very cordial with him and there after greeted him when he arrived in the mornings and was pleasant throughout the day but from the outset he never reciprocated, always having a stern, superior attitude towards her. As the first then second month passed, he and Bender kept things at a business level, never speaking about anything else but their cases. She assumed because of the age difference, Kyle didn’t want to socialize with him, in or out of the office. This was just one other fact that exacerbated Bender’s solitude and as far as Averie knew his son never called, so he only had a few people he saw regularly.

Kyle quickly made his feelings known to her that she didn’t impress him, and stated so occasionally in general terms to Bender. Her feelings became the same about him, but in spite of their mutual disregard for each other, it was clear that Kyle wasn’t influencing Bender into dismissing her, Bender was old enough to suspect that Kyle wanted someone more his age. For all of her bosses favorable attributes; agreeably authoritative, honest, soft spoken; Kyle had as many faults; hostile, self absorbed and obnoxious. Averie didn’t think anything of it; other than he was two years younger than her, therefore thought he knew more. But she knew otherwise, he’d been doing the job for only two months but she’d done it for five years.

On this particular morning during Averie’s typing the phone rang.  She 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 couldn’t understand what was being said, almost interrupting them because ease dropping was a secretarial no-no, but then to her horror, the man specifically said; kill Bender, which changed the scope of the ease dropping rule completely.  For her, not listening would be to let Bartholomew down and that wasn’t her job.  She trembled as they continued, discussing a price for the deed.  Kyle hit his speed dial number for the office without knowing it. Listening intently, Averie held her hand to her mouth to prevent herself from screaming.  With clarity Kyle said he wanted Bender killed and the body never 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 now 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 it, therefore her face. Quickly she took her mirror from her purse, surveyed the mass smearing and rapidly began wiping it off with tissue.

In her years of 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 causing her to hyperventilate. She pounded on her desk to get Bender’s attention, there being no time to waste, Kyle would be in within the hour but as she did so she inadvertently spilled her coffee across the top of it. Bartholomew heard the thumping and came slowly down the hall.  Seeing Averie gasping for air, he took a bag from the kitchenette and had her breath into it.  She desperately tried to regain herself and had finally caught her breath as he tried to assist her, then she weakly began repeating the first part of Kyle’s conversation, but with his poor hearing he couldn’t make out what she was saying, but just as she feared, Kyle entered.  They looked at him and he at them. He exchanged greetings with Bender but not her and went into his office, closing the door. Bender didn’t press her on what she was trying to tell him and Averie made the quick decision that he shouldn’t be told because she feared at his age the fright could send him to the hospital or something worse.

  Bartholomew 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 but on helping Mr. Bender. She knew she heard the two men right and began to worry more. Questions continued to plague her thoughts. Had Kyle seen that his phone accidently dialed the office, during or after his meeting with the other man?  When were they planning on committing the crime? Her heart pounded. For her to write it down and give to Bender 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 got up, looked out the window, down toward the greenbelt area of the park that was below.  The morning 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 she considered innocently.

Her mind analytically prioritized what she needed to do; first was to 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 contacts on her computer, unconsciously Averie skipped over all the last names of Bender. As she continued down the list of names she wanted a person who was familiar and had met, she paused at Donald Johnson his longtime friend but hesitated, mulling over whether he would believe her.  Instinct told her probably not, but why, she didn’t have an explanation for.  She continued the search beginning with the A’s again for someone, anyone, who could help, this time stopping at Manley Bender, Bartholomew’s grandson.  Averie never heard his first name used before, it interested her; she wondered if it was a family name.  Gathering her thoughts she got back to what trouble his grandfather was in.  The 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, would he be responsive?  Her options were exhausted, and with her adrenaline running so high she was too.  Averie had no alternative but continuing to go through the names while she thought about Manley, then she finished with again no one, because she knew she couldn’t disturb Morgan in his poor health.  It came down to Manley, she’d have to chance it, he was only two hours away by plane and Bartholomew was safe, at least until the end of the work day. She wrote down his grandson’s home number, putting it in her purse and went back to work to avoid any suspicion.

As time ticked away panic set in. She tossed around whether it was more prudent to call the police rather than Manley. The former made no sense, she had absolutely no evidence and it was something she overheard on a call, that wasn’t meant to be made and they’d tell her they couldn’t do anything until something occurred, plus she felt they were even far less likely to believe her than his grandson.  And, if on the off chance they did ask her about Kyle and she admitted that she didn’t much like 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 came over her to make certain Kyle and his accomplice didn’t get their opportunity, even if it meant making a fool of herself to his grandson. She had to make sure of Bender’s safety somehow.

An hour later 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 she had been, impatiently she waited for him to go back into his office. After going in and out of the file room, he stopped at her desk and asked if mail had come for him. Averie kept typing, replying none for him. By her lunchtime at twelve thirty she was in the midst of the agony of whether or not to leave Bartholomew with Kyle, she wanted to weep by how perplexing and complicated it all was. 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 to Bender made her decide that she’d have to go into the ladies room, 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 was leaving or staying for lunch, only telling Bender so telling him 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 Bender she was staying in for lunch but had to use the ladies room and would be right back. There was no sound from him, he brought his lunch every day and didn’t care. Abruptly Kyle opened his door saying angrily that he was on the phone and would she lower her voice because he could hear her every word.

Knowing that her scheme worked, she retreated, grabbed her purse and went out the front door to the bathroom down the corridor, dialing Manley’s number as she walked. After several rings a woman answered. Averie identified herself, insistent that she speak to him right away. The woman said she was his mother, he was at work and would have to give him a message. Averie’s phone began to slip in her trembling fingers as she repeated the urgency in speaking to him, adding that it was about the health of his grandfather. His mother ceased resisting, asked her to hold the line then went and came back, giving her the number.

Before calling she, feeling ill, 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 went to the sink, rinsed her mouth then tried the number. A man answered and before he could give his name Averie asked if she was speaking to Bender’s grandson, the man replied that it was. Her heart started to slow as she told him she didn’t have much time then relayed the information. She’d not expected that he would take the call lightly, considering his dad’s situation with his grandfather, so was prepared for his refusal to help. Manley listened in awe of her quick action 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. Quickly she answered 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 thought 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. Just as she’d feared it wasn’t going easily. 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, wrote down her cell number and assured her that he’d call and leave a message of what time he’d be at the office.

In relief she relaxed, glad he’d eventually taken her seriously and that she was helping Bartholomew. With no time to waste she cleaned herself up in the mirror, and other than pale, she looked figured she looked alright, popped a breath mint in her mouth and went back to the office. Bender and Kyle were in front of her desk as she entered, her knees became weak, it was so queer to see that she almost dropped to the floor. Even stranger was that they were making dinner plans for the evening, which they’d never done. Pleasantly she 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 not remembering that he’d done that. Averie was pouring out charm as she worked to convince him that he had. Kyle disguising how perturbed he was, though not to her, agreed to another night with Bender and the men went to their offices. With that rendezvous averted Averie hurriedly called Johnson’s office to confirm the imaginary dinner date. His secretary didn’t know about it and she’d have to check with him and would get back to her. This was a complication Averie hadn’t anticipated; what if Johnson already had plans. Her throat chocked up at the idea that she’d made a mistake that would cost her her job? She’d lied to her boss and couldn’t tell him why. The time passed slowly as she waited for the return call and focused her attention back to Concentrating on her, what was now stacks of letters and messages which needed to be taken care of.

Periodically she checked her phone for a call from Manley about his arrival. It was one thirty when she received the voice mail from him that he was due to arrive at three and would be there a half hour after. It took an hour but Johnson’s secretary called back and confirmed that the two men were now set up for dinner at their usual eatery, Hunter’s Lodge, which Averie knew usually went into the late hours. She tried to ease her mind with all the positive developments, at least her boss wouldn’t be left alone for the next few days if she could help it until she and his grandson could figure out what to do, but there were still things that needed to be done. Arranging her and Bender’ schedules for the next few days wasn’t too big a problem, but she wouldn’t be able to manipulate Manley’s, especially since 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.

It was three twenty when the door opened and Averie, expecting him, smiled. The man came in and introduced himself as Mathias. She looked at him with disappointment, hoping it was Manley and asked if she could help him. He told her to cheer up, he was Bartholomew’s grandson. She said 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 and relieved that he wasn’t stuck with being a Manley all his life. He agreed; it was a bit too descriptive for him. Averie blushed then returned her thoughts back to the problem; where they could talk about what to do? Before either of the men came out from their office she quickly told him of the arranged dinner date at six this evening. Mathias watched her carefully, she was less frantic than she’d been on the phone and if she was upset, there wasn’t any indication of it. He suggested they go to dinner near his grandfather’s apartment to talk things over so he’d be home before the two men finished. Averie agreed but her desire to be involved until there was a resolution was enormous and knew he’d have to decide which way they’d proceed, it was his grandfather in the path of murder, not hers.

She let Bartholomew know Mathias was there. there was silence for a minute, his arrival very much a surprise to the old man, he then told her to send him back. Mathias winked at her, turned and went down the hall. Thirty minutes passed before Mathias came out and when he did, instead of leaving, he went into the file room and wasn’t seen again until five o’clock. Kyle left before he came out, so he didn’t get to see or meet him, which Averie knew could be problematic if Mathias wanted to follow him but didn’t mention it when he and Bartholomew left. Right after they were gone she locked up for the night and drove to the restaurant to join Mathias. Once seated Averie fidgeted the entire time, picking apart the straw in her soda, folding and unfolding her napkin and used the restroom. It was forty minutes before he arrived. Once they’d 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. None of it bothered her at all until the phone call, because it hadn’t seemed to bother his grandfather.

After listening, he found her intelligent and credible and the fact that he liked her sandy brown hair and blue eyes was merely a bonus. With his interest in her set aside he was sure she’d heard something and that his grandfather was in some kind of danger. The sudden idea that he’d have to be absolutely certain it was Kyle’s voice she heard and not someone else’s before going to the police; because if it’s not him, he’d have to find out who, to give them a name. And if it were him there was no sense in messing up the tip off by accusing Kyle prematurely since they wouldn’t be able to do anything until the crime was committed. Mathias stayed to the subject; asking where Kyle lived. She told him it was at work and she’d text him the address in the morning. Averie asked what they should do. He answered 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 that she would have to testify against him. With a clear head and no hesitation she said she’d do it, adding that Kyle had contempt for her and her lowly position as “just” a secretary and how it would be a pleasure to do; if he were actually planning on hurting her boss.

She brought up the problem that Kyle must have called from his cell phone because a land line wouldn’t have dialed the office number accidentally and she still didn’t know whether or not he knew she was listening in. Her distress over it was visible to him. Thinking quickly, he devised a way to cover her, explaining that since Kyle’s office was next to the lobby she could, in the morning after he’d arrived, put the answering machine on the other side of the wall, turn it on, knock on his door and hurry back to her chair, getting him to ask who was there. She asked why? Mathias pointed out that if Kyle noticed his phone call to the office and asked her whether she picked it up he would be on the tape as if he’d reached the machine and if he didn’t believe her then she could play it for him as proof. Her smile showed the gratitude she had for his help and ingenuity. Mathias said 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, thus giving him the advantage to watch him undetected. After dinner Mathias and Averie parted as they met, as business partners with a job to do and neither one took it lightly. He went to his grandfather’s to wait for him but fell asleep, the day had been long one. It was ten thirty when Bender came in and saw his grandson asleep on the sofa, pausing to look at the peaceful young man he missed terribly then patted him gently awake.

With the plan worked out in her mind, Averie was in the elevator early; first to get Kyle’s address texted to Mathias and then to get the answering machine ready. She worked quickly, afraid of being caught, then waited for the prey. It struck her funny that they were plotting against the plotter. Over the years there’d been many things to handle for Bender, his lost luggage, cancellations by people, unfinished contracts and the like but never thwarting an attempt on his life. She began working with the anticipation of what was to come. As expected, Bartholomew came in before Kyle and mentioned that she was there early, her excuse was to catch up on some work that hadn’t been a priority, he smiled, thanked her and went in his office, closing the door as usual. Her heart Palputated with worry that he’d come back out before or during her task. After some time Kyle came in, ignoring her as usual, but still the saliva built up in her mouth, she couldn’t swallow, there was no other way to get him on tape. Nervously she turned on the machine, knocked on his door and flew back to her chair, putting her head down as if she were hard at work. He called through the door, asking who was there, but she didn’t answer, forcing him to open the door. He 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 and closed his door. Tears of fright formed in her eyes because she hoped she’d been calm enough to fool him but couldn’t be certain. Averie put the machine back and would have to edit it later in the day after he and Bender left.

While she’d been doing her part, Mathias was driving his grandfather to work. He went with him as far as the office door, quietly looked in at her then left. Mathias texted Averie that she was to let him know when Kyle left the building and what car he drove. The distraction of the impending crime was getting in the way of her work, she hoped Kyle would leave. At one thirty he showed himself, under one arm he had a folder, his briefcase in one hand and his coat in the other. When the front door closed she sent Mathias the text with the hope that all would come to an end easily. Spotting the black sports car, he watched and waited for five minutes more until Kyle got in his car, Mathias, in his rental was ready 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 a man or men. It was going on four thirty, he had to return to the office in enough time to pick up his Bartholomew and would try again in the morning, texting Averie about the lack of success.

Once again, after taking his grandfather to work, he waited in the parking garage of the building, this time bringing work with him to occupy his time. Averie texted Mathias that it looked as if Kyle were leaving. He messaged back that it being three forty five, he wouldn’t be able to follow him and be back in time to pick up Bartholomew. She offered to do it, leaving with the excuse that she had a urgent family matter to attend to if he would come up and answer the phones for her. With the pressure to prevent anything from happening to Bartholomew Mathias reluctantly agreed then went up, hiding in the file room until she and Kyle left. As she waited at the elevator with Kyle his presence made her hands shake, her breathing got heavy and her face became flush, with the look as though she were going to throw up. He was plainly disgusted by her and wedged himself into the corner. Averie wasn’t confident enough to think she could outsmart him and knew she’d have to use wits she never needed to use before. She knew his unflattering traits but he being as sinister as he was, wasn’t one of them. When the doors opened on the first floor his proximity disconcerted to her causing her to fumble for the car keys in her purse.

To keep his distance from her Kyle walked slower, watching as she walked towards her car. Not wanting to let him know that the car she stood beside was not hers so he wouldn’t identify hers when she followed him, her head went down as if she were going to get sick. Averie watched from the corner of her eye as he got in his car ran and got into hers and as he exited let a car get in between them. Her hands shook nervously on the wheel as she tried 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 and was better than being caught.

She watched as his first stop was at a camera shop, then on to an office building near to theirs, remaining three cars behind him as he turned into its parking structure. Averie knew it would be too hard to follow him if he went in and tried to think of options if he did, but didn’t come up with any 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 had the same idea, not saying that he’d get into Kyle’s townhouse in the morning while he was at work and told her to call it off. Averie was about to leave but still kept an eye on his car, then suddenly jumped from surprise, a man was getting into Kyle’s car with him. 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 light enough that she could see him two cars ahead of her in the next lane headed for the interstate, he sped along weaving between cars but she managed, as anxious as she was, to stay behind. When he signaled to get off the interstate, Averie did the same, uncertain whether his driving was because he spotted her. She noted the landmarks and turns, they were a half hour out of the city. sharing them with Mathias after Kyle and the man arrived at their destination, he parked at the top of the driveway of an ordinary looking house. Averie parked a few houses away, across the street and shared the route information with Mathias. After getting out of the car the man began pointing at his lawn to Kyle. Mathias texted back that he was on his way and she was to stay out of sight of the house and they’d meet at the restaurant they’d been to. Never were instructions so futile, her intuition told her that they’d be in the house talking and she should try to listen, they weren’t going to wait until he got there and neither could she.

She had 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. Averie was out of her car when Kyle and the man went in the house, she straightened out her skirt, hurried to her trunk and pulled out her laptop. Approaching the man next door who’d just gotten home and was getting out of his car, she opened her laptop and said she would be inspecting the house for termites, asking if he would be interested in an inspection. The man politely declined and went inside, she hurried to the side of the house. Looking up at the eaves, she faked knowing what termite infestation was, then went to each side window, trying to get a visual on the two men but there was no sign of them. Frustrated she had 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 data. It worked she was at the other side.

Averie took a glance through the first window but didn’t see anyone, then move on to the second where she heard Kyle’s voice. Pressing herself against the wall, desperate to hear them, she lifted her head to the window. Kyle became clear, 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 and they’d only profit when he took over the firm. Averie was shocked. How did he know whether or not the family was written out of his will? The man said he’d take care of Mathias for another ten thousand but didn’t want it to get any messier or he’d bail out. There was no time for fear, her watched showed she’d been there ten minutes already so she couldn’t stay much longer or she or her car could be seen by Kyle if they left. Composing herself, she took off for her car. Up the street, Mathias was standing outside his rental car 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, having served as a Investigator in the Army for four years his instinct was to he drive down the street and stop in front of the house where she’d been, 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. 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. While she waited for Mathias to arrive she tried to work out different strategies to keep him around her and Bender but nothing worked out, she didn’t even know him. It was too late for her to tell him to forget it and go home, he didn’t seem like he was so timid he’d do it, plus she needed his help. Then there was the problem that if he came in the office, Kyle would meet him and there would go his cover. She paused and sat back, figuring she’d better wait, then once she’d told Mathias they could collaborate on their next move.

Mathias strolled in and up to their table. 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. He shrugged saying he wasn’t saying a word about it and thanked her for the courage she’s shown. After ordering their dinner she quietly repeated their conversation to him. He concealed his rage as he sat in admiration of her guts to protect her boss, saying only that Kyle was a little weasel. 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 the man killed him or Bartholomew then she would have to be. Since there wasn’t much time and if he wasn’t killed, then he’d eventually have to go back home and she couldn’t live with or watch her boss twenty four hours a day. Because she was now burdened with worrying about both he and his grandfather, Mathias, as a rouse so she wouldn’t be involved in his breaking and entering, 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. In anguish she agreed though 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.

He asked about how she came to be working with his grandfather. She started off with Gail’s retirement six years earlier and how at twenty one his grandfather took a chance by hiring her, she only having had experience working in her parents office, omitting the fact that it was one of the biggest brokerage houses in the state. Mathias said he remembered Gail vaguely, then to exacerbate her feeling that he was inept, began counting on his fingers, six plus twenty one. Averie watched in horror, he not being anything like the elder Bender who was as sharp as a blade now as when she first started at the office. While he continued 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 of the time? Her confidence sunk lower as she continued to watch him but 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 in following Kyle the day before and meeting her at the house earlier and then there was? And then? She was sure there’d be more and then’s 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, twenty-seven. She clapped to encourage him and to show she was impressed that he knew without checking her driver’s license.

Mathias kept his joke going, adding thank you and that he liked living with his mom because he liked her oatmeal, even though he didn’t live with his folks, his mom was at his house to drop something off when she called. Somehow as he went on he endeared himself to her and she nervously became humored by him, reminding herself that she didn’t need him to negotiate through the trouble, she hoped she was clever enough for that, but might need his physical help. Her patience with him and courtesy for his perceived lack of brains made him see her truly kind heart, whatever she thought about him was kept to herself, she’d not given one insulting word to him. They confirmed that they would have to talk in the morning because Averie didn’t know what Kyle’s schedule was for the day, they parted so he could pick up Bartholomew.

A little after nine a.m. Mathias received Averie’s text that Kyle arrived to work. He drove to his townhouse, picked the lock and began to search. Thirty-five minutes passed before he found what he was looking for; a torn piece of paper with Bender Friday the eighth written on it, which was this coming Friday. What he still needed to know was where and how. The possible scenario’s of how went over in his mind. He deduced that 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 being potentially too many people leaving at any given time day and night. It seemed logical that it must be at Bartholomew’s home. Averie overhearing Bartholomew tell Kyle when they were making dinner plans that he doesn’t go out in the evenings anymore because of his eyesight, unless someone picked him up. Mathias put a piece of hard plastic 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 so Kyle still had to be at work.

It was a rush for him to get back to their building and into the parking garage to take up his surveillance position and to fool Averie into thinking he’d been there the entire time, but made it without any traffic violations. To her dismay Kyle stayed the entire 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 was sure he was gone. Twenty minutes passed before it was clear. When he got into the office he offered to take her and Bender to dinner, which they accepted enthusiastically. He told them he had a call home to make and would meet them by the car. Averie thought nothing of it, giving him her office key to lock up when he’d finished. Once they’d left he traced over the words on the plastic onto a small piece of paper, went into Kyle’s office and slipped the copy he’d made under his desk pad then left.

After a pleasant and relaxed dinner and with Bender oblivious to the impending attempt on his life they parted. Within minutes of arriving home 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 not even a sliver of a step behind him, leaving him without having to suggest it to her in the morning. He texted back again that she’d better not get caught, he’s seen Kyle’s size and wouldn’t be able to beat him up. As she read 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 about her.

By the time she got parked in her parking garage, took her laptop from her back seat and got in her apartment she was exhausted, especially after the prior two days conversations with Mathias. Averie 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 him. Her eyes wanted to close but she was too curious about what would be found if she did an internet search for Kyle. Pulling herself up, she plugged in her computer and began. It annoyed her that nothing came up for his name. Averie stopped, showered, got into her nightgown and tried several more times, using Jim Kyle, Jimmy Kyle and even John Kyle, but there wasn’t anything on him, there were others but not him. Her hand went to her phone to text Mathias, but she stopped, wondering if she should. 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 the message about finding nothing about Kyle on internet, possibly a false identity, then went back to searching. Within a few minutes he responded; possible? She wondered if she was on to something even though through the sale from Morgan to Kyle she and Bartholomew didn’t find anything out of the ordinary, all his references and accounts checking out fine. Her heart raced 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. 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 she 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. Averie knew she had at least thirty minutes until he could arrive, eight o’clock being the earliest time he’d ever been into the office. She went through what she thought was everything, including his books, but found nothing. When time was up she turned to shut off the lights then saw his desk pad, she hurried and lifted it and found the paper. Racing, she turned off the lights then out the door and got in her seat, putting the paper in 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 got chilled by how cynical she was because of her anxiety over what was written. If only he’d do something to restore her faith in him, giving her hope. Adding to her despair and finding extremely disturbing, Bartholomew and Kyle came in together. Where was Mathias? Non-chalently she asked Bender, he replied that he had an appointment, so dropped him off. The possibility that he was at the police station telling them what was going on entered her mind. She tried to think the best, that he’d tell her before he did. Or wouldn’t he? There wasn’t an expectation that he would but hoped it.

Averie checked that Kyle’s door was closed, took out the paper and read it; Bender Friday the eighth. Because the date was for tomorrow she had to get Mathias to text her back, entering; urgent found note with day, but there still was no answer. Wanting to act fast, she had to come up with an engagement or event that would keep Bartholomew busy for the night. Her brain worked overtime, the theater or show, dinner and a show, movies, all things he did, but not with her. Her head slumped forward with hopelessness. What would Gail the seasoned secretary do? Averie snapped her head forward with joy. Gail, of course! He’d go anywhere with her and 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 wouldn’t work it had passed, then she went on to the next, her birthday, that was coming up. After a happy but brief catch up Averie talked her into going with Bartholomew to dinner and the theater, everything would be arranged but would she be able to pick him up from home. Gail was thrilled and agreed to it. Working as hard as she could, Averie called the theater’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. Averie was pleased with what she’d done; they’d be gone until at least eleven thirty, which would give Mathias time to pick him up from the theater, going home with him and poof, Bartholomew would be alive to see another day.

Mathias texted from the garage, asking if Kyle was there, Averie answered back no, he’d left an hour before. When he came up she 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, her ideas 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? Adding that 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. Just as the previous nights, Averie hardly slept but managed to get up when her alarm went off.

Even though there was intensity in being around Kyle she did her work as usual not letting on she knew there were secrets in the office. He behaved coolly, doing what he always did, as though he knew nothing about what was going to occur to Bartholomew, then left early for the day. When she told Bartholomew of the evening plans she’d made for him he was pleased, especially to see Gail and 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 clothes, get her tooth brush and the book she’d been reading, wanting to occupy the time, not knowing how long she’d be at his apartment. She parked across from Bartholomew’s apartment building and waited for Gail to pick him up at six, their dinner reservation was for six thirty and it would take them at least that long to get to the restaurant. Gail showed up on time, Averie smiled at the completion of one task. With key in hand she got into his apartment. Having never been there before she found it to be nice, neat and comfortable. Definitely an intellectual’s surroundings, which matched him exactly. Mathias left her a note on the living room table saying she was to help herself to anything for dinner. She momentarily found it strange that he left it for her because 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? That was a question she wanted to ignore, knowing to think about it would drive her mad, instead she had a ham sandwich and 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 the noise of a key turning in the front door lock woke her. She assumed it to be Mathias, relaxing herself by the thought. Unconcerned, she Staying on the couch and in the dark reached out to turn the lamp on, but wasn’t managing to find it. The door opened and with only the light from the hallway she could see a scuffle unfolding. Without knowing what was going on, the fight between two men broke out in the doorway. Her heart raced as she struggled to get to the lamp switch while keeping an eye on them. 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 Bartholomew hitting the man she guessed was Kyle’s hired murderer. She quickly looked around the room to find something to hit the man with or to give to her boss. Averie picked up the metal lamp on the end table lamp but as she tugged the cord didn’t pull out of the socket, her arm whipped back so she dropped it and nearly fell on top of 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. She stopped, it was Mathias’s voice she heard but he was dressed as his grandfather. The man was on top of him and punched him in the face, just as Mathias got a hold of his shirt to get him off the police came in, pulling them apart.

She spotted the gun, cleared her throat and pointed it out to a policeman. They 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 insisted that 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 himself, 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 for her good work 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 would have believed if she’d told him what was said. He looked at her sullen face saying it would have been very hard to without any evidence. She nodded at his admission with a grin, proving her point.

Mathias told the police he had to pick up his grandfather which would take about thirty minutes, they agreed but asked that he return as soon as possible, he’d have to speak with the detective who’d be assigned to the case. Bartholomew, who upon seeing the scuff marks on the wooden floor in the foyer looked inquiringly at his grandson and asked what happened while he was gone, but then quickly 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 to detective Raptie, the process taking until one a.m. Raptie informed them Kyle had been arrested 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 detective went on to say that Kyle confessed that he was a longtime friend of Ernie, the grandson of Bender’s old partner Morgan, and that Ernie’s original plan was to kill Morgan for the inheritance of coarse, but the police would be all over the family as they usually are, but then got the idea to kill his old partner after he heard that Kyle passed his bar exam. Averie asked what he hoped to gain by killing Bartholomew? Raptie went on with his synopsis of the events; he was in need of money and came up with killing Mr. Bender because he knew Bender was as old as Morgan and that Bender and his family were estranged, therefore he thought no one would miss him and everyone would think it to be a robbery. It was well conceived and had only one unforeseen glitch. Mathias interrupted; which was? Raptie grinned at Averie; Ms. Diall here. He continued matter of factly; once Kyle was talked into it, he set up the purchase of the business for Kyle, down to the references and bank accounts 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 detective had an answer for that too; she wouldn’t have because he reversed his name, he’s Kyle M. James. Mathias and she looked at each other admitting he was clever and they’d never thought of it. Once the grueling task of being questioned and given the answers they wondered about was over it was three a.m. As soon as they returned to Bender’s apartment building Averie began to get in her car but Mathias, seeing how exhausted to be driving she was, invited her to stay in the spare room, reminding her she’d left her toothbrush in the apartment. Without hesitation, having dreaded the thought of driving across town, she accepted. They looked about at the damage the evenings fight caused. Averie cleaned up the living room where she’d fallen asleep while he picked up the bigger things off the floor that Bartholomew didn’t get then Mathias gave her a clean, white t-shirt to sleep in and each retired to separate rooms.

Bartholomew awoke at five-thirty as usual and not having heard Mathias come home he guessed that it was a fairly late night for him so was quiet to let him sleep in. At seven it was a surprise when Averie walked into the kitchen wearing what she’d been in the night before. Mathias wasn’t up so she explained her being there. Five minutes later Mathias walked in, pleased to find his grandfather and Averie talking. They gave him the details of what Kyle had been up to, offering to answers his questions after they’d eaten. From what Bartholomew had been told, he knew he owed them for saving him. The first way he’d repay them was to feed them a sumptuous breakfast and who else could he call but his dear friend Lucien from Les Etoiles. When Bartholomew explained what his grandson and employee had done for him Lucien jumped at the chance to be of service to his old friend, exuberantly he declared it would be the most sumptuous breakfast he could produce and all within a half hour. Mathias and Averie ate with hearty appetites their bacon, eggs, crepes, coffee and orange juice. After, with Bender and Lucien in the living room, they went over everything, starting from the phone call. Mathias had to break it to him that it was Morgan’s grandson who thought out the entire thing. Mathias repeated everything the police told them. Devastation swept across Bender’s face, he’d known the boy since birth. 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, seeing the disappointment he had, moved on to the ironic twist the plot had taken. If Averie hadn’t called him they would still be missing out on each other’s lives, all because of his refusal to stop being a pig headed fool. Bartholomew agreed and apologized to Mathias about the fight with his father, adding that he’d called his dad this morning who was now on his way and would arrive at two o’clock. His grandson shook his hand with gratitude, having never understood why the separation. Averie watched, pleased at the outcome of the horrendous week. Before she left Bartholomew asked 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, she couldn’t resist from kissing his cheek. Averie noted that his spontaneous blush made him glow. As Mathias walked her out to her car he invited her out to dinner at six thirty, after he, his dad and grandfather talked, to show his appreciation for having done the right thing by calling him and taking the whole thing seriously. She accepted with thank you.

Averie was ready as the time neared six thirty. Unaware of which restaurant they were going to she chose one of her favorite and best dresses, the green velvet sleeveless with the left shoulder embroidered in swirls of color three inches down front and back, which nearly swept the floor. It didn’t matter to her if he was a bit awkward when it came to being bold and proactive she’d grown used to him and had proven himself a good guy. He arrived at her door in a tuxedo, a look she wasn’t accustomed to seeing him in for he’d worn work boots, jeans and flannel shirts the entire time they’d been together. Averie invited him in as he gave her a bouquet of gardenia’s, the likes of which she’d never seen, she having only seen them as boutonniere’s. Not only was it the flowers but the intimate way he looked and smiled at her that made her think she’d been severely duped and told him so as she put the flowers in water. His was a quick apology, which he’d planned anyway, then explained that his purposeful naivety was merely to be able to get the information on Kyle using, if he had too, an unorthodox way, which he did. Somehow there was satisfaction in his answer for her, it wasn’t in the least condescending, which is what she was expecting.

He took her by the arm as they left her apartment. Once outside he kissed her hand for all to see, declaring that 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 whispered she didn’t have either. Mathias was elated, not liking complications to the things he wanted. As he, rather than the chauffer, opened the door of the town car for her, with his other hand he helped her in. During their drive Averie confessed her thinking; that he was too unfamiliar with the city to be of help to her. He smiled saying he’d lived there until age seventeen and that was when they moved, then confessed he had to make her think that to keep her from wanting to go with him into any possibly harmful situations, adding that he’d found her reactions extremely funny and was very entertained. 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 Les Etoiles at the top of the Hotel, they were greeted by none other than Lucien the head waiter who’d made them breakfast and listened to their exploits. He in turn didn’t see the disheveled pair he’d met in the morning but saw a sophisticated couple who he’d personally take care of. Then after speaking with them, Lucien determined they weren’t just that but also gracious people. He recommended his best and catered to their every want. They ate then danced through two songs, their mutual fondness for the waltz was seen by the other couples on the floor. Several songs later they sat out the rest out, preferring to listen to the music and getting to know each other. Averie turned to him, not having been up front about her personal status earlier, saying she was divorced. Mathias answer that he too was divorced, adding that he was an attorney, like his father and grandfather. It came as a huge surprise, she’d never have guessed. 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 him somewhat before but completely since he’d fought with the assassin. 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. They sat silently listening to the music both feeling the magnetic pull of compatibility. Both had it right, they were, and so was the start of a very happy couple.