The morning air is bracing as Sam dashes across the street where Lila’s Bakery is. She walks past the shop and down the block and turns into the branch office of a local bank.
Good thing I brought the checkbook with me Sam reflects as she rummages in her bag, waiting in line for the next available bank clerk. Dean will need more than a thousand dollars and she won’t be able to withdraw enough from an ATM machine in one transaction.
A woman ahead of her is discussing some issue unhappily with one of the two bank clerks on duty. Sam watches the other clerk who finishes up with a customer but then walks away from the window.
A more senior bank officer is now at the window with the clerk who is tending to the unhappy woman, whose voice has grown more agitated. Sam fidgets impatiently and looks up at the clock, she’s been waiting in line for twelve minutes. The other clerk reappears at the window and beckons Sam over.
The bank clerk briefly studies the hastily written withdrawal slip and asks to see ID which Sam hands to her.
“How would you like this? In twenties?” the clerk asks Sam.
When Sam returns to BubbleTrendz with a platter of Lila’s pastries, Mary is in the kitchen and gives Sam a mild glare.
“What took you so long? I’ve already made the coffee. Just take that platter on in to the conference room.”
“I’m sorry. There was a line.” It’s a half truth, but Sam is not going to discuss her bank errand with Mary. Without taking off her jacket, Sam goes to the conference room and sets the pastry platter on a side table next to the coffee urn. The three visitors are standing by the window holding cups of coffee and talking in low voices.
“Good morning, gentlemen!” she says brightly, saluting the three men quickly with a perky smile. They regard her as an attractive minion and say nothing, but wait for her to remove the wrapper covering the pastries. Joel Anderson immediately walks over and selects a brioche, bites into it and resumes his conversation with the other two men. Sam can smell his aggression, his power chemistry. A dangerous human to be avoided. But she needs information. She looks at Joel with feigned apology.
“I’m sorry that Dean is not here yet. He’s usually the first one in the office, but-”
“We’re not expecting Divers today,” Joel responds quietly, dismissively.
“Oh. Is he still in New York then? He was supposed to be back here last Friday and I was expecting faxes from him.”
Sam is aware that Joel is looking at her incredulously, at her presumption to enter into a conversation with him as equals. But, it’s obvious that he has now reassessed her status: she’s more than an office bimbo, she’s a potential obstacle to be dealt with swiftly.
With calculated measure she continues to look at him, eyes wide but unintimidated. Joel stares at her with unmasked annoyance.
“Sweetheart, make me a cup of tea. Earl Grey. Black.”
She shrugs and stays put. “I’m just a little concerned about my boss now,” she says with a touch of deference directed at Joel.
“Okay, doll. They don’t tell you much here, do they. I’m you’re boss now. Dean Divers sold me a controlling share of this firm on Friday. He reports to me now. That’s not too hard to understand, is it? Now, make me that tea. And make it strong.”
After serving Joel his tea, Sam takes a quick glance at Mary’s desk when the latter woman appears to be gone. There is paperwork from BubbleTrendz’ attorney and Joel Anderson’s name appears in several places on the top page. Is it a transfer of ownership contract? Should she call the lawyer’s office and ask him whether he has heard from Dean since last Friday?
Sam’s thoughts race as she walks back to her desk. Is Dean just cracking up and concocting a crazy story after signing away sixty percent of his company? Seller’s remorse?
Sam reminds herself of Dean’s sudden treatment of her as his only confidante. He’d been a decent guy to work with, but his behavior toward her bordered on the aloof. Until these recent phone calls. But, she trusts her instincts. It’s why that envelope of money is stashed in her purse. She hears Mary’s voice and sees the three men following Mary down the hall. Time to look busy.
It seems Mary is taking the men on a brief tour of the place and they linger a bit at Evan’s office. Sam’s acute vampiric hearing picks up most of the conversation and it’s obvious Evan has worked with those guys before. She’ll discuss that in private with Gil when she gets the chance. Her office phone rings and she picks up the receiver with a pounding heart.
“Yes. I have it for you.”
“Thank you! Were you able to get a thousand?”
Sam’s eyes scan the hallway as she half-whispers into the receiver, “Four thousand. Forty bills in an envelope. Where shall I send it?”
“I’m in New Jersey. I’ll be here for a couple of days, until the money gets here. Tell no one!” Dean sounds desperate as Sam scribbles down the address, a motel in some beach town outside Atlantic City.
“They’re still here,” she tells him in a hushed tone. “He says he’s running the company now, that you sold a controlling share to him. He didn’t reveal where he thinks you are.”
“He’s not what he appears to be.”
“What he appears to be is not exactly Prince Valiant.” Sam chuckles despite the situation.
“He’s a dangerous man, Sam.”
“Dean! What should I do here?”
“I don’t know yet. But sending the money is the first thing. How did you manage four thousand?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Sam! You didn’t–”
“It was absolutely no problem. And there’s more if you need it.” She realizes she’s sounding more like Zaira now than Sam. She hears Dean let out a long breath over the phone line.
“Sam, you’re a great little office manager, but I had no idea what a gem of a human being you are. I underestimated you greatly. I’m sorry.”
“You trusted me. I’ll try not to let you down.”
“I know that.”
Sam sees the men leaving Evan’s office and immediately brings up a display of inventory on her computer, pretending to look it over while speaking into the phone. “I’m fine with printer cartridges for now. What was that number to reach you? Let me just repeat it back to you.”
In a quiet voice she relays her personal cell phone number to Dean as Joel Anderson walks past her desk.
— to be continued —