I returned to my desk, wondering if Anne had already sent a text message or an email to Sid about our meeting. Managers were like that, I knew: They would do anything to curry favor, to build clout, with other managers. They never knew when a favor might be needed, or when today’s colleague might become tomorrow’s boss or subordinate. There had been multiple reorganizations at Thomas-Smithfield in recent years, and I figured that managers like Anne were always thinking about things like that.
I had been a fool to trust the system…particularly when my entire case was based on eavesdropping.
Donnie and Bethany both appeared to be absorbed in their work—though I imagined their minds were really on the topic of their meeting with Sid. They did not acknowledge me, and I made no effort to engage them.
A little before lunch I did have a reason to talk to Ellen about a work-related issue. I walked over to her desk, actively feeling sorry for her: She was likely the target of a murder plot, and she didn’t even know it.
My position as Ellen’s only benefactor did nothing to soften her attitude toward me. (I was still an unknown benefactor, after all; and as yet I had done nothing to help her.) She replied to my request in her usual manner, an attitude that wavered on the midway point between grudging acknowledgement and total dismissal.
If Ellen only knew, I thought…
Feeling fidgety, I walked to the Coke machine. There is nothing like a Coke Zero to steady the nerves, I have found.
I took a moment to stare back into the little space I entered the previous day. If I had never stepped back there, I would still be doing my job at Thomas-Smithfield in blissful ignorance. I would be content in my illusion that Sid was my benevolent mentor, that Donnie and Bethany were nothing more than run-of-the-mill coworkers from hell.
My can of Coke Zero in hand, I headed back to my desk. Who should be walking in the opposite direction then, but Sid Harper.
He said hello to me, but his gaze seemed to linger on me with a scrutiny that had not been there before. Had Anne already contacted him?
It was just a matter of time, I knew, before Sid Harper and I came to a serious confrontation.