The back of Anderson Advertising was dark and quiet. Sorta like a cemetery. And the building was creepy as hell. Despite some lights, it looked completely different than it did during the day.
The fact that before I thought this was a stupid idea was nothing compared to what I was feeling now. How were we gonna get in? The security guards from the front entrance were definitely gonna see us and ask us what we were doing here at this time of night. And also, why was it so dark? New York is supposed to be the city of lights, but there weren’t that many lights back here. I didn’t like the fact that it was night time. At all.
I heard a sound coming from the garbage bins and almost screamed. What was that sound?
Every single thriller I’ve ever seen passed before my eyes. Technically, I’d only watch parts of the movies; I never dared to sit through a whole movie. I suddenly remembered a scene in a movie which I’d seen years ago (but still haunted me) where the people appear out of nowhere wearing masks and start killing the protagonists of the film. And I started thinking that some drunk or pervert could be hiding behind the garbage bins, waiting to attack me. I turned my head to the right in the direction of some other bins, and started imagining someone appearing from the darkness holding a knife and wearing a mask...
Ok, I had to stop. All of that was fake: stuff directors and screenwriters came up with. We agreed to meet here with Sarah, Derek and James. I’m sure they’d already arrived. And I should be thankful instead of making up my own scenarios with people wearing masks and holding knives.
I came to my senses and continued walking in the darkness towards the back door.
There, I discovered what had made that noise, and was taken aback. Because it wasn’t Sarah or Derek or James. Not even a drunk or a pervert. But someone who I also didn’t want to see: Ben.
“What are you doing here?” I asked after I managed to catch my breath.
“Did I scare you?” he asked, ignoring my question. “You’re white as a sheet.”
“No, you didn’t scare me,” I said coldly. “I never get scared.”
“Good. For you, I mean.”
“I just wasn’t expecting to see you here that’s all.”
“Didn’t Sarah tell you I’d be here?”
“She might have mentioned it,” I said. “But I probably just forgot.”
Ha! That was good! He was so cocky! He probably thought that the entire female population of the world was obsessed with him. Neither I, nor S, were that’s for certain. Speaking of which, where was Sarah? I wanted to strangle her for not telling me that Ben was in on this.
“I had to keep the key,” Ben said. “So that you guys wouldn’t lose it.”
“You got the key?” I asked shocked.
“Yea. Did Sarah forget to mention that as well?”
Yes, she had. Because we had agreed that I wouldn’t have anything to do with the key. So I guess, I didn’t need to strangle her after all. But how in the world had he managed to get the key?
“I borrowed it from John,” he said and shrugged. “It was a piece of cake. I just told him that I needed to use his office during his meeting with the board of directors since mine doesn’t have a printer yet. And he gave it to me.”
Of course. John recognized himself in Ben and trusted him just because of how annoyingly perfect and cocky he was. If I’d asked John, he would’ve dismissed me and told me to get back to work.
“And, obviously, I forgot to return it after I was done,” Ben continued. “I’m sure I can explain all that tomorrow.”
I wondered what that feeling was like; to always be sure of yourself and care-free, like Ben appeared to be. Wasn’t there anything that could make him feel vulnerable and wipe that cocky grin of his face?
Probably not. Or maybe, Paris. If she asked him to break up or anything. But even then, he’d fall into the arms of the next blonde who’d be waiting for him. That’s what guys like him always did. God, I hated him so much!
Shortly after, Sarah, Derek and James showed up. They appeared to have met on the way and they seemed very excited. They greeted Ben and I enthusiastically.
“Are you guys ready?” Derek asked.
“Of course,” Ben replied. “It’s gonna be awesome/”
“Are your flashlights ready?” Sarah asked.
We all turned them on, and nodded. We were set to go.
“Ok, then,” Derek said.” Let the adventure begin!”
We used our key fobs to get through the back door, and shortly after, we were in the building right at the back elevators. Where, of course, it was pitch black, except for a few dim lights on the walls, which, needless to say, caused the area to look like something from a horror film. Consequently, scaring the crap out of me. But of course I wasn’t going to let it show how scared I was. Not with Ben here.
We rode up the elevator in silence, and got off at our floor.
“There’s his office,” I said, after we’d stepped off the elevator.
We walked towards John’s office quietly.
“Let’s just listen for a bit to see if anyone’s inside,” Derek suggested.
We waited outside the door for a few seconds and then, Ben produced the key out of his pocket and put it in the lock. After turning it once to the right, we opened the door.
No one was inside, as Derek suspected. But Sarah and James weren’t disappointed. We had already discussed beforehand that if no one was in John’s office, we would look for some clues – notes, gifts, clothes, those kinds of things.
I have to admit that while we were looking around John’s office, we actually had a lot of fun, cracking jokes one after the other. We were all very elated and in those kinds of situations, it’s hard to be serious. In the end, we found a sticky note which read: “Gift stored in cabinet”.
“Here,” Sarah said locating the cabinet. “Our answer is hiding in this drawer. The answer we’ve been trying to get all this time... Let’s open it!”
Of course, the cabinet was locked. We should have known. Now we’d have to go home without having found anything.
“Wait! Check any of the other drawers to see if you can find the key,” Derek suggested.
James and Sarah started opening drawers and looking for the key. And they found it. It was thrown in one of the drawers, completely unprotected. Two pass keys on the same link. I guess John didn’t really care about security.
“Unbelievable,” I whispered. “What if someone had broken in looking for company information?”
Amid more laughter, we finally got the cabinet open. And what we found was definitely not what we were expecting to find. John, for whatever reason, had five books on... parenting!
“Oh my God, look,” I said and pointed at one titled “Becoming the Parent You Want to Be”.
“Shit, what’s that all about?” Ben asked confused.
“Wait, look here,” Sarah said jubilantly and she held up a pink piece of paper. “Can’t wait till tomorrow night, xoxo A,” she read out loud. “Huh, see, ‘A’, as in Amanda. Told you they were sleeping together.”
“Not necessarily,” Derek said and grabbed a small box from the bottom of the cabinet. “This says, ‘To Amanda: Elephant Shoes’,” he read. “I’m pretty sure that’s not a compliment.”
Anyways, long story short: our findings from the cabinet didn’t help us figure out whether or not John and Amanda were together. Each time we would find something, it would confuse us even more. One thing would be evidence that our CEO was in fact an item with Amanda and another that he makes fun of her. There didn’t seem to be a pattern.
“Great,” James said when we locked up the cabinet disappointed and put the key back in its place like good little spies. “Now what do we do?”
“Let’s go home,” S said. “We’ll never know the truth. I think we should just give up.”
I sighed relieved. We had, I’ll admit, had a good time but all the adrenaline was starting to wear off and I was beginning to feel really tired. It’lll be nice to leave the office and go home.
At that moment, however, we heard a sound. We turned off our flashlights and lied down on the floor.
“What was that?” James asked.
“Shh,” Ben said. “It’s probably the security guard. Be quiet!”
For what seemed like eternity, all five of us lay on the ground not saying a word. Outside we could hear footsteps and doors opening and closing. It did sound like the security guard. How could we be sure though? Maybe it was some serial killer walking around with a gun. That stuff happened all the time – in movies, at least.
The footsteps got closer. Suddenly the doorknob turned and the door opened. I was able to make out the silhouette of a man with a uniform. He looked around the office, closed the door and left.
I took a deep breath. It was the security guard after all. And the most important thing: he hadn’t found us. Maybe we’d manage to sneak out of the building without getting caught, in the end.
We stood still in the dark. We all knew that it would take a while for the guard to check the whole floor. And that we couldn’t leave, unless we were certain that the guard had gone back downstairs.
And then I felt a hand on mine. A warm hand which took mine and squeezed it. I squeezed back. S was such a good friend! Evidently she had realized how scared I was. Most likely, she was scared as well. Her laugh interrupted the silence. We let go of each other’s hand. It seemed like she was about to start laughing her infamous hysterical laugh. And, then, no one would be able to stop her. Not even the security guard.
“S, be quiet,” James whispered.
“I can’t,” she said breathless trying to contain her laughter. “It’s so ridiculous.”
“I think the coast is clear,” Ben whispered. “He left. It’s really quiet out there.”
We got up carefully. We checked to make sure we hadn’t left any evidence of us being there and opened the door making as little noise as possible. Derek stuck his head out and checked to see if anyone was in the hallway.
“I don’t see anything,” he announced. “Should we go?”
Derek, James and Sarah left first. Ben and I stayed behind so we could lock up, since he had the key and had to lock the door behind us. A few seconds later, we followed the others towards the elevators.
And suddenly we saw the security guard. He hadn’t left after all! On the contrary, he was walking towards us looking down at his BlackBerry. If he happened to look up, he would definitely see us.
I froze in place. Ben, on the other hand, acted fast and pulled me aside to a corner. At least there the guard wouldn't see us. But there was no way we could go to the elevators.
“In here,” Ben said and opened his office’s door which was near John’s.
I let him pull me in without objecting. I was freaking out way too much to be able to make my own decisions.
In his office it was fairly bright. The street lights were casting a faint light in the office even though the blinds were partly closed. Ben walked over to the window and pulled the blinds up. He looked satisfied.
“From here we can see the front door, so we’ll be able to see if the guards go out for a smoke. And then we can sneak out the back.”
I didn’t say anything. I sat in one of the guest chairs in front of his desk and waited for the blood to rush back up to my head.
“Didn’t you tell me before that you never get scared?” Ben said ironically, and leaned on his desk directly in front of me.
“Sometimes we say stupid things we don’t mean,” I muttered.
Why did he always have to make such stupid comments? I was so sick of this whole little game. Couldn’t he realize that this wasn’t the time? He should have realized it.
“I’ll admit that I also say, and do, a lot of stupid things,” he said. “Really.”
“You can’t be serious,” I said, surely sounding really mean.
“Yea, in fact, one time I laughed really loud at a girl who dropped some wine bottles at a self check out. That was really stupid and immature. And I regret it.”
“You could have apologized,” I said. “It’s wouldn't hurt.”
“I tried once,” he said. “But she didn’t want to listen to me. For a while I thought that she would never forget me. She’s very stubborn.”
He stared right into my eyes. And then the next shock of the night occurred. Ben smiled and placed his right hand on my cheek.
I stared back at him with my mouth open and I couldn’t move or do anything. I was frozen in place, while he caressed my cheek with his thumb causing me to feel butterflies in my stomach.
“I was so glad it was dark back there in John’s office,” he said. “Or else, I wouldn't have dared to hold your hand.”
“You squeezed my hand?” I asked shocked.
“Yea, you’d you think did?” he asked equally confused.
“I thought it was Sarah.”
The memory of the hand in the dark made my heart start racing. Because I knew how nice and warm it was and with how much fervor I had replied...
But wait, what did all of this mean? Ben stood up and walked to the window. And turned his back to me, sighing loudly.
“Well,” he said and shrugged, “just forget it. Besides I see the guards downstairs smoking. The coast is clear. We can go now.”
I thought about what he has said about the whole hand thing with Sarah. I started suspecting something. Perhaps Ben had felt a little embarrassed. Something or someone had managed to make him feel vulnerable. Was it maybe... me?
But no. No way. He was with Paris. I’d seen how close they were dancing at the party. And in general, how they treated one another. I stood up.
“But you’re with Paris,” I said, before I could stop myself.
“Paris who?” Ben asked and looked as though he didn’t know what I was talking about. “Oh, her... no, we aren’t together. Why would you think that?”
“I saw you at the party,” I explained. “And I thought...”
“Oh, God!” Ben interrupted me. “Jess, don’t you get it?”
I guess I was wrong. Ben was almost angry.
He came and stood right in front of me.
“Don’t you understand that I did all that at the party for you? Don’t you understand that...”
Ben stopped talking, but my heart continued to beat fast. We were standing there looking at each other. We didn’t know what to say. Or, actually, we didn’t need to say much.
TO BE CONTINUED... JUST ADDING SOME GOOD STUFF ;) WILL BE UP SOON!!