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Authors: Cheri Lewis

Tanked: TANKED (4 page)

BOOK: Tanked: TANKED
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Mr. Samford’s voice calls over the speaker phone, “Ms. Morrow, could you come into my office please?”

I get up, grab a pen and paper and walk into his office.  He’s sitting behind his large desk that makes his medium frame seem small, and then he makes a motion toward the chair, “Have a seat please.”

I sit in the leather chair directly in front of his desk and I can tell he has something to say. 
Surely I’m not in trouble because I have bags under my eyes, I know appearance is important but this is the first time. 
“Ms. Morrow,” he says, interrupting my thoughts, “I know as an employer I have to be careful with crossing the line with meddling in employees’ personal lives.  But if something is going on that I might be able to help with, I would appreciate you letting me know.”

I sit a few seconds trying to decide exactly what I should tell him “Well…” the tears well up and cloud over my eyes “I’m sorry. I’m tired and I know I’m going to sound really insane but I think a guy I was dating is messing with me. I’ve went to the police and all they said is I need more proof.  I have no idea how to go about getting proof.  And, somebody was messing around my house last night; they banged on the windows and then knocked on the front door right as the police were getting there.  And you know what the police found?  NOTHING! They said it was probably teenagers playing a prank on me!” I realize my voice is raised higher than it should be. He leans back in his seat, with both arms on his chair; his stare bothers me because I have no idea what he’s thinking. 
Great, first the police, now my boss;
hopefully he won’t fire me
.  I can’t stand the silence any longer so I say, “I won’t let this affect my work, I know I look terrible but this is two nights now I’ve gone without sleep—”

He put his hand up and waves it for me to be quiet, “You’re not in trouble. If you remember it was me who asked you if there was anything I could do to help and I think I can. I know someone who can help you get the proof you need.  He’s a friend from college. He was actually on his way to work for the FBI when—” the unfinished sentence hangs in the air as his eye gaze past me and he seems to be in deep thought.   He shakes his head and looks back to me then gives me a small smile. “Sorry about that. Anyway, he takes on a side job every once in a while he’s very good at what he does.  I’ll call him and make you an appointment.”

His generosity touches me but then I think of the cost and the realization I can’t afford it comes crashing down around me. “Mr. Samford, I truly appreciate that but I can’t afford to hire someone. I’ll figure something out.”

He leans forward in his seat and drums his fingers on his desk then says, “How about this? You go meet with him.  I’ll pay for this first meeting and you can discuss his rate and if need be I’ll make you a loan or advancement and you can pay me so much back a week, interest free.  How does that sound?”

Relief instantly washes over my body and I thank him excitedly without even thinking. “Mr. Samford I could kiss you right now!” The look of shock flows across his face.  I speak up quickly, “Sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. What I meant is I’m so thankful, and that’s just a figure of speech.” I shrug.

He nods his head and we lapse into an awkward silence until he finally speaks. “I’ll let you know what he says in a bit.”

I’m being dismissed
. I stand and walk out of the office, and I suddenly no longer feel tired.  I want to call Jessie and tell him everything but I can’t. As it is he’ll have to wait until he gets home Saturday.  I go back to my desk feeling very hopeful.

****

 

I’m a ball of nerves as I park in front of an old building; the outside obviously hasn’t been maintained in quite some time.  The grass looks like it hasn’t been cut all summer and there are no plants anywhere you could see but there are spots where plants used to be. I double check the address before I get out of my car.  Walking slowly toward the front door my mind races.
This can’t be right. This place looks like a dump. Even one of the bricks from the front steps is missing. What in the world?  That right there is a hazard that could get him sued
.
How good of an investigator can he be if he doesn’t know that?
  I gently open the door, peek inside and find the inside surprises me.  I push the door open all the way and step inside.  The musty smell immediately hits my nose.
Whew! He needs to open up some windows.
The inside is modern and looks like it has been renovated within the last few years but everything looks untouched.  I walk toward what I assume to be the front desk and look around.
This
looks
like it would be a lobby but I don’t see anybody.
  When I make it to the desk I realize nobody has sat at that desk in at least a decade. There is dust piled up on everything.  I look around closer. The back of the couch has a layer of dust. The end tables and even the fake plants have lots of dust covering each leaf. 
And they think I never clean. This is crazy.
I hear a noise from the back of the building and my pulse starts to pick up.
Just go and get out of here
. I turn and start walking to the front door to leave when I hear a man’s voice, “Ms. Morrow?” I stop in my tracks and turn around slowly but nobody is there. “Yes?” I call out cautiously.

“Come on back.”
Back where?
I glance down a hallway where the voice sounded like it had come from and I can see a light shining out onto the floor. 
You would think if you had a new client you would greet them at the door.
 
Just go back there and meet with him. Mr. Samford was nice enough to at least try to help you.
  I walk down the hallway toward the light. I can smell cigarette smoke and I wrinkle my nose. The door is halfway open so I push on it until it’s open all the way and step inside. I stop in complete shock at the mess of a man who is in front of me.  His long scraggly beard is the first thing I notice, it’s like he doesn’t care what he looks like or he’s given up caring. His oversize clothes are a huge indicator he has lost some weight, and they are wrinkled and a mess.  He’s in desperate need of a haircut. His hair is long and hangs down past his shoulders. There is a whiskey bottle on his desk and a lit cigarette in an ashtray

“Are you Mr. Osborne?” I ask completely frightened and confused.
This is not at all what I had pictured
.

He smirks and I immediately notice the scar that runs down the right side of his face. “Yes and you’re Ms. Morrow. One of Greggy Boy’s charity cases he sends to me.”

“Wha—What?”

He picks up his cigarette and puffs on it then releases the smoke into the air. I wrinkle my nose again. Then he repeats himself, “You’re one of Greg’s charity cases to try to get me to—” he puts the cigarette in his mouth and takes another puff.

I speak up immediately, not allowing him to finish his sentence before he releases his puff of smoke. “Could I ask you not to do that around me?  It really stinks, plus I have to see my parents later this evening and they’ll swear I’ve been bar hopping on Tuesday afternoon.” 

He stands and takes another puff and then smashes his cigarette down in the ashtray putting it out.  He walks around the desk and stands directly in front of me.  His hazel eyes lock in on mine. I can smell the alcohol seeping out of his pores and then without notice he releases the smoke from his lungs and blows it right in my face.  I cough, back up and wave my hand in front of my face, fanning the smoke away. 
The nerve!
My temper flares and I march forward and lean into him. “You know, that’s a really crappy thing to do.  Apparently Greggy Boy, as you called him, has obviously not seen you in a while because you are NOT who he described, at all!  I didn’t come to you as one of Greg’s charity cases; you can call him and ask him if you don’t believe me.  I intended to pay for this all myself and why make me drive all the way over here and meet with you if you aren’t interested in the first place? I really needed help but I’ll figure something else out. I can’t take on dealing with another asshole; I’m already at my limit.”  I turn to leave but stop and spin back around.  “For someone who was supposed to be all that, you aren’t much.” I spin back around and walk out of his office and go straight to my car and drive home. 
A shower and a nap is what I need.

That evening I stay longer than necessary at my parent’s, knowing they’ll beg me to stay the night with them.  And I very happily take them up on their offer of sleeping in my old bedroom where I feel safe.  My last thoughts are about the guy from today and what a mess he is.
I don’t know what my boss was thinking
.  The next morning I hear a soft tap at the door.  I open my eyes and take in the blurry sunlit room.  I am so tired from being sleep deprived when I first wake up I’m a bit startled then I remember where I am and I say, “Come in.”

My mother opens the door and sticks her head inside. “Hey, Kinsey, it’s 6, I know you need to get home to get dressed. I have coffee and some breakfast ready if you want some.”

“Sure Mom, I’ll be there in a minute.”

I rub my eyes and I feel rested but my neck and back hurt.
I slept so hard I don’t think I moved last night.
  I sit up and stretch, then climb off the bed.  I slide my shoes and glasses on and walk down the short hallway to the kitchen. My mother is busy back and forth between the waffle maker and the frying pan. “Thanks Mom, the coffee smells wonderful, so do the bacon and waffles.” 
Sometimes I sure do miss being home.

“Well, have a seat. It’s ready.”

I climb up on the bar stool on the outside of the kitchen counter and she places a cup of coffee in front of me, I pick it up and inhale the aroma. 
Oh it smells so good.
  I smell it again before I took a sip. 
ACK!
It desperately needs more cream and sugar.
I reach over and grab the sugar bowl and dip a few teaspoons in the coffee before I get down off the bar stool and go find the creamer in the fridge. 
Oooo my mother has stepped it up in the world. Liquid French vanilla
. I pour some in my coffee and my mother says, “You like a little coffee with your cream and sugar, huh?”

“Yes ma’am it’s the only way to drink coffee,” I reply after I take a big gulp.

She puts a plate in front of me with a waffle and two strips of bacon. I pick up a piece of bacon and place it in my mouth.

My mother pauses in front of me and I can tell she is up to something, “McKinsey, I want you to come to Bible study tonight.”

I pause from buttering my waffle, eye my mother and answer her with bacon still in my mouth, “Oooo—k, why?”

“Don’t get all pouty on me but Mary Beth and I want to introduce you to her son, Christian, you know, now that he has graduated from college and has a real job.”

Argh, I don’t know why she doesn’t just have an auction and give me away to the highest bidder.
  “OOOOOOhhhhhh Mom. Seriously, he is what twenty-six, twenty-seven years old? And I don’t need to be introduced to him, I know exactly who he is; please don’t do this to me.”

“Well you’re not getting any younger. Every guy you date has something wrong with them, and your father treats Prima like she’s his grandchild.  You can’t “friend date” Jessie for the rest of your life.”

Her little dig of friend dating Jessie reminds me why I moved out and got my own place.
“Mom, I don’t want to date Christian. I don’t want to meet him or be introduced to him.  If you and daddy want a grandchild so bad, adopt another kid.  And about Jessie, one day he’ll meet someone and fall in love, and get married. Don’t worry it won’t be to me.” I’ve lost my appetite now, I put my fork down on my plate and it makes a loud clanking noise.

“McKinsey Frances Morrow, sometimes you make it difficult to have a normal conversation.”

“Mom you’re trying to fix me up with a kid who had acne so bad, he could have starred in his own commercial.  Not to mention how many times we had to hear about him having his excessive ear wax removed with a suction hose.”

She makes a repulsed face as she asks, “That was Christian?”

“See— you have the same reaction I do, Yes, Momma, that was Christian, and every time I think about him that’s all I picture in my head.”

“Well hopefully he has changed over the years—”

“Then you date him!”

She exhales and gives me an ugly frown. “You know one day you’re going to regret talking to your momma that way.”

“I’m sorry but please don’t try to fix me up with anybody especially at Bible study and, by the way, I won’t be there tonight.”

She huffs but doesn’t respond. I pick up my fork and eat several pieces of the waffle. I glance at the clock and see it’s 6:35
Oh, shoot! I have to go.
“Momma, I have to go.”

She looks up at me from washing dishes at the sink and gives me a loving smile, “Alright, drive safe.”

I give her a quick hug then run out the door.  I drive home in a hurry and race through my morning routine of getting ready. 
At least I don’t look so haggard today
I say to myself in the mirror as I finish getting ready.  I arrive at work five minutes before Mr. Samford.  He walks in. “Good morning, Ms. Morrow.  Could you come into my office please for a moment?”

BOOK: Tanked: TANKED
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