The Guides are in the wings.
“Make your decisions from your heart, not your head”, they said. “It’s time to lose your mind and live from the heart. It’s about love from now on. The changes are all around you. Embrace them.”
They gave me their blessing to have some fun before the next messaging. So…
Thanks to my Red Dress Club, I was challenged to write a piece of fiction using dialogue. Perfect timing. This woman in the Red Leather Coat has been hanging around my life for a few weeks. It’s time she had a chance to live:
A small woman in her late 30s sat across from me, fidgeting with her red purse. A shock of caution shot through me. Was it her sex appeal? Was she applying for this job, too?
A flurry of blond curls covered her bowed head, almost hiding her face. The fitted leather coat, a deep, primary red, emphasized a curvaceous body atop graceful and shapely legs. When she raised her head, eyes glistened with tears that tumbled. Suddenly sobs shook her body.
I slipped into the chair beside her. “Do you need a tissue?” I asked.
She shook her head and pulled one from her pocket.
“I’ll get some fresh ones,” I said. I hurried around the corner to the box sitting on the receptionist’s vacant desk.
When I came back, the woman was gone.
I resumed my original seat. No human chatter or any other office sounds accompanied the distant sirens and honking horns rising from the street twelve floors below.
Within minutes, a well-groomed, forty-something woman with short black hair appeared from one of the offices. “Hi. I’m Doreen Mullen. You must be Alora.”
After our introductory exchange, I said, “Did you already interview that other woman?”
“What other woman?”
“The blond woman in a red coat that was sitting there,” I pointed at the empty chair.
“You’re the only one scheduled today. Let’s go to my office.” She led me to the furthest office and held its door open. All offices were fronted by glass. I scanned each one as we walked by. We were alone.
I settled into the leather chair in front of Doreen Mullen’s desk. “Where is everyone? Is the office closed today?”
“No. All the staff are enjoying an extended lunch today. We’ve come through a rough patch.” She gestured to a silver water decanter. “Help yourself if you like filtered water.”
She opened the file in front of her, “You didn’t take me away from anything. I was happy to have an excuse to leave.”
“I didn’t see you come in,” I said.
“I came an hour ago. I only unlocked the one door…the one you came in.”
Baffled, I let the matter drop. I had to concentrate on my interview.
After the interview, I walked down the hallway, past the reception area and out the door to an elevator. An uneasy feeling nagged me as the doors closed. I thought, ‘Who was the woman in the red leather coat? Where did she go?’
On ground floor, the elevator door opened. The woman in the red leather coat stood discreetly to one side of a large round pillar. She was watching the sidewalk traffic in front of the building.
I approached her. “Hey. You disappeared. Are you okay?”
“I’m okay,” she said. Suddenly she grabbed me. She pushed me against the pillar at an angle that allowed her to stand behind me. Being a foot shorter than me and of smaller build, she could easily hide behind my frame.
“What are you doing?” I tried to pull away.
With strength that belied her stature, she held me in place and whispered from behind, “Please. If you want to help, just stay put. Do not move.”
A group of twelve jovial people suddenly burst through double doors into the building. It had to be the staff on the extended lunch.
“Oh God,” she whispered. Through her tight grasp on my arms, I felt her shaking.
When she let go, I turned around and said sternly, “You need help! Let’s go to Security.”
“No! Don’t talk to them!”
Her fear softened me. “I hope you are okay. If you just need to calm down, I’m going for some lunch. You’re welcome to join me.”
She chose a restaurant next door. As soon as we found a booth, an efficient waitress took our orders. I said, “I’m Alora. What’s your name?”
“You can call me Jeannette.”
“I can call you Jeannette? What’s that supposed to mean?”
Jeannette studied me through squinted eyes, “I wonder who you really are. What were you doing with Doreen Mullen?”
“You’re the one who’s sneaking around an office building and grabbing strangers to hide behind. And you expect me to answer your questions?”
The waitress arrived with our tea. When she was gone, Jeannette said, “What were you doing up there?”
“I was on a job interview. They need a Personnel Manager,” I said.
“Does the name Jon Mullen mean anything to you?” she asked.
“No, but the woman who interviewed me was Doreen Mullen.”
“She was in that office all by herself. Dammit!” She covered her face with her hands.
“I’m scared.” Jeannette moved her trembling hands to the table, “Especially after this .”
“Does this have anything to do with that Company?” My heart sank. I wanted the job.
“Oh God, what a mess.” She grimaced. Or was that a smirk?
“Look, Miss Jeannette whoever-the-hell-you-are, talk or I’m outta here.” I realized that she didn’t have a purse. Did she assume I’d pay for her lunch?
This was too much for me. I reached for my purse and put it on the table.
“Please don’t go!” she whispered. “For some stupid reason I trust you. I’ll talk.”
The waitress brought our lunches and left. Jeannette said, “You’re right. My name is not Jeannette. That’s my business name.”
“What kind of business?”
“Prostitution. Don’t go all weird. It’s just that what I know could destroy Jon Mullen. But who’s going to believe a prostitute?”
“I think you better explain real fast, Jeanette! I’m getting nervous about even sitting with you.”
“Jon Mullen has been my client for over ten years. His wife is Doreen. They both own the company. She doesn’t know me, but when I opened the door today and saw her, I nearly collapsed. Jon told me she’d be there, but I was supposed to find her dead. I was terrified that I’d been duped. I didn’t know what to do – then you suddenly showed up. I was trapped.”
“Dead? You were supposed to find her dead?”
“At 12:30. I was supposed to find her dead and call the police. I was to tell the police that I was there for an interview.” Jeanette’s hand shook as she sipped tea to combat her dry, clicking mouth.
“When I got there, Doreen was talking on the phone for God’s sake. I grabbed a chair so she wouldn’t see me. Jon assured me that the poison would have taken effect by 12:30!”
“He was going to poison her?” My mind raced. Could I be named an accomplice in a mucked-up, premeditated attempt at murder?
“No! She was supposed to drink the water. He just put fast acting poison in it. She always drinks water. Always!”
I remembered the silver water decanter, “Holy shit! She offered me that water!”
I had to leave. Doreen Mullen’s life was in danger. Nausea spread through me.
At that moment, I looked over Jeanette’s head, toward the door. A policeman entered the restaurant! He stood at the front, scanning the restaurant. He turned and slowly walked in our direction. Who the hell was he looking at?
He stopped at our booth. “Mrs. Mullen!” he said. “How are ya?”
Jeanette looked at the policeman, “I’m not going back there!”
He said, “You missed taking your meds again. The folks at the hospital have been worried about you.”
Jeanette looked out the window.
“Excuse me, Officer,” I said. “Who is this woman?”
He looked at her and said, “You didn’t tell your new friend that you are Annette Mullen?”
Annette Mullen slid out of the booth and went towards the washroom door which was conveniently a few feet away. “I’m sure you’ll be here when I come back,” she said as she opened the door.
He turned to watch the door, “She’s Mrs. Jon Mullen.” He paused for a moment. “Mr. Mullen died four weeks ago and Mrs. Mullen has been under doctors’ care ever since. Our small hospital just doesn’t have enough staff so she slips under the radar pretty easily. She’s an incredible escape artist. Pretty smart. She managed all the human resources stuff for the Company.
“Her sister-in-law found Annette’s purse in the washroom up at the office about an hour ago. Good thing she likes this restaurant. It’s generally where we find her. I know there’s no windows in that washroom,” he said.
“What was the cause of her husband’s death?” I asked.
“That’s still being determined. But it’s some kind of poisoning.”
“Omigod!” I pointed toward the intersection outside. “A red leather coat is hailing a cab right now.” I reached for my purse. It was being carried into a cab.