Business as unusual
By Karen Wittkamm
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blow of Gail’s retirement whom he’d relied on for thirty years, not to mention his son’s departure made him somewhat withdrawn.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.