Short Story

Chapter 1

The Englishman

Alice opened the door of the office and quietly told Mr. Robinson that someone was waiting to speak with him. "Very well," he replied, drowsily, putting down his pen and turning his chair around to face the windowless door of his bleak office. She went back to the other room and told the man that he could go in now. His accent was noticeably English, and she rather liked it. He was a rather handsome lad as well. He went in, and she stood by the door daydreaming for a few seconds, before catching herself and quickly hurrying back to the paperwork she had been busying herself with earlier. There was so much work to be done, now that Mr. Robinson was planning on sending out what seemed like hundreds of invitations for company's banquet, which was, hopefully, going to be held very soon. She picked up her pencil and continued her writing. "Hello, Dr. Robinson!" the Englishman cheerfully exclaimed from inside the office. She shook her head, wondering how the walls could be made the way they were. She could practically hear everything that went on in there. Sighing with boredom, she continued writing. Then something in the conversation caught her attention. "Are you trying to tell me you don't remember me at all?" the Englishman asked, alarmed. "I have never seen ye before in my life." "Well, what about this..." Alice heard something like a large envelope being opened, "Have you seen this before?" There was a momentary pause. "Yes, o' course, that was... How did ye come by it?" "You gave it to me." Mr. Robinson seemed to be confused, since he started to tap on his desk hurriedly. "I'm sorry..." he stated, now perplexed, "Perhaps I met ye on a business trip, or some other event. I really don't have time to talk 'bout it, though. Perhaps ye can tell me what your business is." "I came to tell you something quite important. Dr. Robinson, I have the key." There was a mysterious profoundness in the words, and Alice had to wonder what on earth Mr. Robinson had been up to lately. But she had second thoughts when he replied, "I'm sorry? Look, now, I don't know what ye're talking 'bout, and... this "key"... Well, ye better put it back; I don't need any keys, thanks." There was another brief silence. Then the Englishman asked, in a surprised way, "Is that all you have to say?" Mr. Robinson seemed to think about it for a period of time. "Good day," was the answer, "I do believe there's nothin' more that needs to be said, other than an explanation. Good day sir. If ye need another talk, ye can visit anytime tomorrow before three thirty. Good day, sir." The Englishman did not leave, however. "Perhaps you will agree to speak to me later. I can't be here tomorrow. How about... seven, at Corner Hall?" Mr. Robinson seemed to be too perplexed to answer straightaway, and the Englishman quickly said his "Good day" and left before there could be any reply. Alice went to the door of her little workroom to see him quickly leave. She wistfully gazed at the front door as he left, and then turned around just in time to see someone else hastily exiting at the back door of the room. Stunned, she turned to see Mr. Robinson coming out of his office to speak with her. "Alice," he hurried on, "I'm late for a meetin' at Northerngate. Make sure that when Mr. Morse comes, he gets the envelope on my desk." Before she knew it, he was gone too. Stunned, she went to the window that overlooked the parking lot and saw the Englishman getting a cab. Then Mr. Robinson came out a little later. She quickly went back to her workroom, wondering what on earth had been going on.

In ten minutes, there was a knock at the front door. Behind it, there was a grey haired, contemplative-looking gentleman, who seemed to be studying the hallway. "Are ye Mr. Morse?" she asked, hesitantly. "Indeed, madam," was the quick response, "Is Mr. Robinson here?" "No, unfortunately not, but there is a letter for ye." She led him to the office, and he instinctively went to the desk and picked up the envelope. He quickly opened it to see the inside, and then gave his cheerful "Good day", and was off without another word. He was gone far too soon, it seemed. Alice went immediately to the window, after he left, and watched him exit and, later, drive with haste onto the street. Something was not right. Then she saw the Englishman exiting a cab. She left the window immediately, and went to the office to survey the place. The clock read "3:47". In a little while, there was a sudden knock. She hurried to the door, and asked, as nicely as possible, if he wished to leave a message for Mr. Robinson. "So, he's not here," the Englishman stated, blandly. "Well, he had some business to work on. Would ye like to leave a message?" She smiled, and he responded, quite unexcitedly, "It's no matter, then. But... do you know if he still has that envelope I gave him, earlier?" Alice could feel the pinkness in her cheeks drain away. "Oh, well," she stammered, "A gentleman did come to get a letter. Perhaps..., it might've been a different one. I can see if there's still one on his desk, though." She went quickly to the office and rummaged through the folders and files, and found an envelope; the only envelope there. She opened it and found files concerning an upcoming project. He came to the office door and watched her. "There's some mistake," she sighed, with regret, "The only files in here are 'bout a project Mr. Robinson is workin' on." He drew in his breath slowly, and replied, "I understand. Did someone happen to take the one I gave him?" "Mr. Morse; a business man he knows. He was supposed to get this one. Sir, I'm truly sorry..." "Well," he answered hurriedly, heading towards the front door, "Tell Dr. Robinson that our meeting is unfortunately cancelled, and that what I gave him has probably been stolen." Alice stared at him in shock, as she followed. "And," he continued, at the doorway, "That it was probably not Mr. Morse who stole it." He was gone before she could blink. Alice sighed again and closed the front door, dreamily. And she had not even remembered to ask his name.

Alice sat back down at her desk, continuing with paperwork for the remainder of those hours. Eventually, there came a knock at the door, and Alice opened it. "Mr. Robinson," she smiled anxiously, "good to see ye back...did yer meetin' go well?" Mr. Robinson was hurrying to his office. "Aye, it did." He went in and gave a glance around the room, making his way to his office chair, and sitting with some apparent distraction in his mind. Alice nervously considered not mentioning about the envelope, but decided it was best. "Mr. Morse...came by shortly after ye'd gone." "Did he get the envelope?" Mr. Robinson glanced up absentmindedly. "He...did take the one on the desk..." "Good, good." Mr. Robinson studied the documents in front of him. "It...was the right envelope, I hope. The one that...the Englishman gave ye?" Mr. Robinson continued his preoccupation. "Ah, yes." He buried his face deeper into a paper. It seemed an awkward silence where Alice wondered whether she should leave. Mr. Robinson glanced up. "Ye can go, I'll be workin' here a bit." He did not want to discuss it. Alice had her hand on the door, but turned around again. "Mr. Robinson," she began "I hope it may be just nothin', but...the Englishman came back, as soon as Mr. Morse had gone, and...and said to tell ye that..." she took a deep breath, "yer meetin' is unfortunately canceled, and that the envelope has probably been stolen." "Meetin'? What meetin'?" "He had suggested ye meet him at seven?" "Bother the English! I'd never agreed to any meetin's! They're always up to that sort of thing," Mr. Robinson rose stiffly from his chair, a file in hand, "makin' it like ye said somethin' and after ye agree then they change their mind about it! A very confusing business it is!" He made his way to a drawer, finding the file its home. Alice concluded the conversation was over and decided it best to leave. "And mind ye," he remarked, "don't be worryin' about what that Englishman says. He's got very perplexing notions on matters, that he expects me to understand, and I don't. Don't pay any attention to him Alice lass, he's an overenthusiastic, and jumps to improbable conclusions." She smiled, understandingly to him, though Alice knew there must certainly be something amiss that the businessman did not notice, or perhaps it was only he did not care to notice. The door closed, she heard him mutter, "stolen...should just leave me out of this...no business here." Returning to her work, she contemplated his words. Perhaps Mr. Robinson did know something. It did not seem like him to refuse someone so boldly, even if he was English.

The clock had struck seven o'nine before anyone dared to move. The man reading the paper turned the page, glancing another intentional look at his watch, and then at the man in a hat across the road who was studying a display case. He was not looking. The watch came out again at seven sixteen, and the man stood up, folding his paper and with a casual stride crossed the road, stopping beside the man with the hat. "Well?" They both studied the book titles advertised in the gallery. "He's not here. I don't think he's coming." "That can't be right." "Things could have changed." "Again." He turned to face his companion, and his voice fell to a whisper. "We can't waste more time on this! We have to find what we're looking for now, or it will be too late! Where is the information?" "It's with Harvord." He surveyed the street. A few cars, passerby's on their way to stores, or engaged in conversation or in observing goods for sale. The sky was overcast, the streetlights were not yet lit. "No. we must change our plans. We can't have a reoccurrence of what happened at Serret. No one knows anything yet, and it has to remain that way. We can't let anything more fall into the wrong hands." Their conversation fell to silence as a young couple walked by laughing. His eyes remained fixed however. "Go back to Harvord. I'll wait here a while and see if he shows up, but I doubt he will. I'll come find you both tomorrow." "And what should we say?" "Just that... no" he looked down, smoothing the headline of the paper with a gloved hand. "say that the information must be correct, and that we need a thorough investigation done into it...no more of this waiting around." "We have to be certain of it." "Am I not certain? Tell me, when was the last time I was wrong?" His friend gave him a sarcastic smile. "All I meant was that if we are wrong, we could end up with more unnecessary problems then we already have." "And wait forever? No. If we let this opportunity slip by we will lose the upper hand. They think we are still behind. We have finally discovered something that they will never figure out how we know." He chuckled. "They gave me exactly what I wanted by refusing to say a word." The puzzled expression on the man with the hat only heightened his confidence. "Go on now! Go and find Harvord! Tell them I have surveyed the situation and found everything confirmed. I'll deal with their query for inconvenient details later." After shoving his associate off to his duties he remained standing, tracing the printed ink of the story with his finger. Let them think what they want. He wasn't going to wait to be sure he was right; he always was. This was what he had been waiting for; an opportunity to show them just how brilliant he could be.

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