Nancy’s memory was like sand slipping through her fingers. Images freely came and went. Was she married? Did she have a family? Where did she live? For a few minutes, if she concentrated hard enough she could remember an apartment or a loft. The floor plan was wide open, must have been a loft, she thought. She could see that it was decorated just like a page out of a Pottery Barn catalog. Rich wood floors, brick walls adorned with trendy black and white pictures of people and places. Nancy couldn’t remember if she had taken those pictures, or were they people she knew, family maybe? Had she been to any of those places? She just could not remember.
Those thoughts were too distant. Her short-term memory served her better. She had forced herself to come into work early that day. She usually spent several nights a week entertaining clients and rarely arrived at the office any earlier than ten. As head of her department, she had a substantial expense account that she used to retain current clients as well as lure new business. It had taken her a while to adjust to the marketing lifestyle, lots of smiling, listening to stories you could care less about, eating, drinking, flirting, presentations, making deals on a promise and a handshake, and this was all part of the job.
When someone was stupid enough to ask her how old she was Nancy would answer, forty-one, when in truth she was almost forty-seven. Appearances were a major plus in her job so she routinely exercised and regularly visited the salon to have those gray hairs dyed brown. Nancy was taller than the average woman was and she liked to wear high heels to increase her height. For some reason it made her feel more powerful, more in control of her surroundings.
Nancy traditionally worked long hours and had promised herself that she was going to make the three-day weekend into four days of rest and relaxation. In order to do this, she had a few loose ends that she needed to take care of and had decided to be in before any of her staff arrived.
Her inbox had shown thirty-three unread emails. ‘Shit,’ this would slow her down. Nancy started addressing the important ones and simply deleted everything else. She was not accustomed to how quiet her office was that morning. Usually the phone would be ringing, Peggy, her admin assistant, would be standing at her door waiting for approval to enter and discuss some pending issue. All Nancy could hear was the hum of her computer and the gurgling of the coffee pot on Peggy’s desk. Usually Nancy would have stopped on her way in at the local coffee shop and bought her caffeine, but nothing had been open so she would have to make do with Peggy’s private stash.
Nancy soon became absorbed in her work. She needed the second quarter financial reports from last year. They should be in the top drawer of Peggy’s file cabinet. As she rose from her desk, Nancy could hear the last drips of coffee falling into the pot. Perfect. She would multi-task, grab a cup, the reports, and life would be good.
The first part of her plan worked out but when she opened the file where the reports should have been all she found was a yellow sticky note with Peggy’s handwriting.
‘Fred borrowed 06/28/05’
It didn’t surprise her to find Peggy’s note. She always created a paper trail. That’s why they made such a good team. Peggy was meticulous and Nancy shot from the hip. Peggy had been Nancy’s best hire. She had great people skills, was very organized, and a great self-motivator. At first, Nancy wondered if Peggy was a threat to her career. That she might somehow be a Nancy-in-training. However, she would remind herself that Peggy was just an administrative assistant and that made her feel better. The only fault that Nancy found with Peggy was that she was younger and prettier. Nancy knew that it was more of a weakness within herself but nevertheless she couldn’t help but hold it against Peggy.
“Not a problem, more time to suck in this sweet caffeine.” Nancy told herself as she placed both hands around the cup feeling the radiating warmth. She strolled out of her office and headed down the hall to the accounting department. Her high heels clicked on the floor tiles.
Nancy was confident that she would be able to find the file because Fred, being an accountant, was borderline insane when it came to neatness. “Hell, the file probably had its own private corner of his desk all to itself,” she mused.
Immediately Nancy knew something was wrong when she arrived at the entrance to the accounting department. Papers were strewn about the commercial grade carpeting. The bamboo plant that usually sat on the stand outside Fred’s office had been knocked to the floor. A pizza box lay on its side with the remaining slices of pepperoni laying on the carpet.
Nancy felt her heartbeat rise. “Fuck me; Fred had a stroke or a heart attack. Poor bastard was probably working late when it hit him and there was no one around to help. What a way to go.”
The light to his office was off. That and the idea of Fred sprawled across is neatly organized desk scared the hell out of her. Nancy knew she had to find out what truly happened to see if there was anything, she could do to help and yet she still stood in the hallway with her fresh coffee warming her hands.
It was time. She had to do something, ‘Be a big girl and just get it over with.’ Nancy convinced herself. She took a step and froze dead in her tracks. There was a popping sound, like someone snapping bubble wrap between their fingers.
“What the f….” she whispered. Nancy could feel the sweat under her arms and down her neck. Looking down she could see that the sharp point from the heel of her shoe had punctured a piece of paper causing the sound.
“Big brave Nancy” she mumbled and relaxed a bit.
Fred’s door was closed. This was the fun part. Nancy grasped the doorknob and pushed it open. The office was in the same state as the common area she had just walked through. Papers, office supplies, trash, reference books, all lined the floor. Fred was sitting in his chair, upright, mouth open, head cocked back, eyes staring at the acoustic ceiling tiles, as though he had fallen asleep in his chair, but with his eyes open.
At the sound of Nancy’s voice, his head snapped forward. Fred started to stand up.
“Fred. What the hell happened? You ok?”
When he did not answer, she took a step backwards. Pop.
His hand dragged along the desk knocking more papers to the floor as he continued toward Nancy. She took another step back. Pop.
“I swear to god Fred if you don’t…”
Right before he lunged at her, Nancy could see Fred’s lips pull back and expose his yellowish teeth. Nancy flung the hot coffee into Fred’s face. In slow motion, she watched him pass by her and slam into the wall next to where she was standing. She did not hear his expected screams of pain nor did he even bother to bring his hands to his face. He bounced off the wall and stood there, dim eyes moving side to side.
'Get the fuck out of here!'her mind screamed and her legs listened. Nancy spun around and sprinted towards the hall. She could hear footsteps shuffling through the debris behind her. She ran back to her office and slammed the door shut. The whole wall shuddered from the impact of the door.
She dialed the police and an operator came on almost instantly. “Yes, help, please send help,” she breathed into the phone. “What? No, I was attacked by Fred.” 'Shit, what did Fred mean to an emergency operator? Get a hold of yourself!' She thought.
“Yes sir, he is still in the building. No, I am in my office with the door closed. Yes, you have it correct, the MAC building. I am on the first floor. No, I am all alone. No, all the doors to the outside are locked until seven thirty. The main entrance? You would need a key card, or someone to let you in. I don’t give a fuck I’m not leaving my office, tell them break one down. Yes, I understand but I’m telling you I’m not leaving.”
Her whole body was sweating now; her heart was busy pumping blood to her vital survival organs, her head, arms and legs. With the phone still to her ear, she reached across desk and snatched a Kleenex from the box.
Every muscle in her body froze. She could see Fred’s bloated pale face pressed against the pane of glass adjacent to her door. This design was standard for all MAC executives. It allowed them to have their door closed for privacy but still see into the common areas.
Fred’s eyes were completely swollen shut and yet his head still followed her every movement.
“Holy fucking shit! He is here! He is right here!” She yelled at the operator.
The doorknob turned but stopped short of releasing the lock holding it. The door started to rattle in its frame.
“Screw you; I’m not going to die talking to some asshole!” Nancy said as she slammed the phone down. The operator had all of her information and she wasn’t going to take a chance that the police would arrive in time, or if they even could get into the building without someone letting them. She needed to find someone to let them in or better yet, bash the shit out of Fred.
She sat down behind her computer and brought up the company phone list while Fred continued to work at opening the door. Fuck. She never got in this early and had no idea who might be here. The phone list was alphabetical by department. Nancy skipped accounting and dialed the Budgeting departments main line - no answer. Contracts - no answer. Human Resources - no answer.
She didn’t know how long to let the phone ring before giving up. This was not working. She had to do something else. Wait. She turned from her computer and looked out the window scanning the parking lot for familiar cars. Near the front entrance, she saw a black Honda Accord, its lights flashed twice and the alarmed beeped letting the owner know that all was safe and secure. The owner then put the keys into his pocket and proceeded towards the front door.
Outside of her office, one of Fred's hands twisted the doorknob enough to release the catch, the door swung open under his next flailing blow.
Nancy slammed her hands on her office window to try to get the Honda owner’s attention but he continued down the sidewalk not noticing. Quickly she released the lock on the window, it would only tilt out half way but it was enough for her to fit her head through.
“Help! You've got to help me!” She screamed out the opening.
This got Bob’s attention.
“What’s wrong? Where are you?” Bob yelled back.
Nancy disappeared from view as she was pulled back into the building, screaming as Fred dragged her inside.