Henry pulled out of the drive, the book resting on the passenger seat, and the Four Knights, ‘I Get So Lonely’, playing on the radio. The steering wheel was cold, really cold, and Henry didn’t even notice. His gloves in his pocket, all warm and napping, just waiting to get in the game were quite content where they were. In his mind, he was laying out the cards which had been dealt him, looking them over, and searching for patterns. It was obvious, that at this point, his hand was weak.
Henry reached down and changed the radio station, Frankie Laine & Jimmy Boyd, ‘Tell Me A Story’, seemed appropriate, so he stopped searching. Snow began to fall again. The wiper blades seemed to be keeping time. It is one thing to know that one is on the right path; it is an entirely different thing to know where that path is heading. Henry stood on the metaphorical path. It was a maze and though he knew that the ‘Goal’ was to end up in the DA’s office with the journal and the key in hand, he wasn’t sure where to turn next. Henry was sure of one thing, if he wasn’t careful, and he should get lost in the maze, it could be deadly.
The cityscape changed, he crossed the bridge, the buildings grew and the traffic thickened. Whether it was paranoia, or his aching ribs, Henry kept checking his mirrors. He had a feeling that he was being watched, the moment he left the bridge and arrived on the island. Left, right, left, right, right and left, put him back on course, and he didn’t see anyone, but the feeling persisted.
Henry pulled up to the address on the back of Bobby’s card. Henry couldn’t believe it. He stood looking up at the Flatiron Building at twenty-third street, famous for being triangular in shape and from being responsible for the phrase, ’twenty-three skidoo’. The draft from the height and shape of the building had, after the completion in 1902, caused women’s skirts to fly up, which meant that the local constables had to “skidoo” the men who hung out for a peak. Henry had always hated right angles. He loved a room with character and he had been curious to see the inside of this famous address. For a moment, Henry forgot about his sore ribs, the business card from the future, and the general feeling of being watched.
He walked into the building, climbed the stairs to the third floor and started down the hall. The numbers got larger until he got to the end; there it was, at the end of the hall, the office which would have the window looking out from the point of the triangle. He hadn’t called Bobby, as he wanted to check the place out, without Bobby yammering on. He reached down and found the door to be unlocked. He opened it slowly and walked in.
“Hey, Mr. Wood, I am so glad you decided to check the place out. It really suits you. Don’t you love the building? You know, the phrase, ’23 skidoo’ is because of the Flatiron building?”
“Bobby” Henry said, momentarily startled, “Yes, I did know that. What are you…”
“I had a feeling you would be coming over today. I mean, you can’t work for too long without an office, can
you? You need to find a place fast, and this place is perfect for you. Here look around. There is plenty of space out here in the waiting room, for a secretary and a desk, and the office is fantastic, here take a look. I know you will love it.” Bobby opened the door, and held it for Henry. Henry walked through and it was indeed perfect for him. He couldn’t let Bobby know, he dreaded the response it would yield.
Bobby was a seasoned realtor and was better at reading poker faces than Henry was at wearing one. “I knew it! You do love it! It is perfect for you. You don’t have a secretary do you? I know a woman who would be fantastic, she is blonde, types 85 words a minute, and has legs that go on for miles. I can get you her number if you like? So should I get the rental contract?” He asked, and presumably took a breath, but Henry thought it was possible that Bobby could talk for hours without stopping or breathing. Henry didn’t answer.
He walked around the room, stopping at the window and looking down on the street. The room felt like a fortress, it was comforting. He turned around and looked at Bobby, who stood silently; a feat that Henry would have guessed was beyond his abilities. Short, Henry guessed about 5’ zero, stout, wearing an old overcoat and a somewhat worn hat, he had a notebook in one pocket, and a racing form was peeking out of the other. His round face seemed honest, even kind, but his constant chatter, made him annoying. Henry stared at Bobby, sizing him up, looking for a clue. Who was this guy? Where did he come from? Why did Sylvia have one of Henry’s cards with this address on it? Why was he wearing a coat indoors?
The room was silent, the flow of chatter out of Bobby had completely ceased, and neither one of them was talking. After 30 seconds, it was becoming uncomfortable for Henry, he expected that Bobby would start blathering on at any moment, but he didn’t. He was mute. Finally Henry decided he wanted to try something and said, “It is ok, but I was wondering if you have anything else in the building, maybe on a different floor?”
“Nope, the building is full; this is the only office available. Shall I get the paperwork?” He responded. He was concise and to the point. This also surprised Henry. He couldn’t get a read on Bobby.
Henry said, “I think I would like to think about it for a while?”
Bobby, who was now a paragon of brevity, said “Why?”
Henry knew that he was outmatched. He turned back and looked out the window, as he didn’t want Bobby to see him smiling. He liked Bobby. Henry thought it best to keep that from the strange little man. He also liked the office and since taking the place seemed to already be in the cards, he decided not to fight it. “I’ll take it.”
Bobby made a strange noise, which might have been laughter, Henry wasn’t sure. “Great, I have the contract in my office. I knew you would love the place, it is a great building. Oh you know what? I almost forgot to tell you the best part, aside from being next to the greatest deli in the world, the best part is that my office is right down the hall! We will be neighbors! I know you will love it here. The other tenants are great, except for old man Conner, but don’t you worry about him, he keeps to himself. I will get the paper work. I will be right back.” He scurried out of the room and silence seemed to hesitantly creep back in, not sure if it was ok.
Henry didn’t know how Sylvia had gotten his business cards, which he hadn’t had printed yet. He didn’t know why it was so important that he have this office. All he knew is that, like it or not, he had a new friend. From down the hallway, the sound, of papers being shuffled, a door creaking as it closed, and someone’s radio playing Tony Bennett’s hit, “From Rags to Riches”, seemed to all indicate that Henry was still on the right path.
-- Brian Meeks, http://extremelyaverage.com