Dead End Job: A Louisa Hallstrom Novel(65)

By: Ingrid Reinke

“Oh what is it, Honey? Do you want to tell me something?” he crooned.

I nodded enthusiastically, and when he didn’t budge, I slowly brought my still bleeding hand up to my face, pointing to the tape and nodding for approval. I waited for him to react, desperately hoping that this sudden change in situation wouldn’t set him off again. “Oh, why not,” he said, waving his hand at me. “Can’t hurt. Go ahead, Darlin,’ take that tape off. I just put it there so you wouldn’t get scared and scream. I didn’t want aaannnyy trouble from you, like I got from those last girls.”

My hand was shaking so badly when I finally brought it to my face that I didn’t think I would be able to accomplish the deed. I gingerly touched the tape with my fingers tracing it up at least six inches away from my mouth and deep into my hair, where the strip ended. I took a deep breath through my nose and gently but quickly started ripping the tape away from my face. When the small clumps of hair stuck to the tape painfully detached from my scalp, I bit back a scream. That was the worst part: the remainder of the tape slipped away from the skin of my face relatively easily, as it was already moistened with tears and saliva. I pulled away the last little piece that was clumped in a big wad at the base of my right ear, and took a second, allowing myself a shaky sigh and then a large breath in through my mouth. I finally exhaled, pulling myself together, and looked up at Martin with my best happy face.

“Oh my Dear,” I breathed, forcing myself to gush instead of grimace. “I am so happy for you about Guy Farner. That is a perfect fit for your skills, way better than working here for saggy old Mr. Curtis. You should’ve told me sooner!” Then I smiled as sweetly as I could. I decided not to bring up the fact that he had tased me, bound me and gagged me and instead focus on the positive.

“Really?” Martin paused and seemed to take me in.

“Yes!” I rushed, not wanting to give him too much time to think it over. “You know that I’ve always supported you in anything you’ve wanted to do.”

He seemed to be buying it. I waited a few seconds and observed him. Pretty soon his big chin started quivering, and it looked like he was going to break down any second.

“This whole thing has been so stressful, Lulu, you don’t even know.”

And, liftoff. Martin’s voice cracked and a fat tear slowly started to roll down his red cheek. He stared down into his lap and began to sob in earnest. I got up and cautiously went over to sit on the edge of his chair.

“I know, I know,” I said quietly, trying to avoid getting blood on his shirt while patting his sweaty back with my hand. Martin was now fully sobbing and having difficulty breathing due to the rivers of snot exiting en masse from his large nose and flowing down the front of his shirt. “It’s OK, honey. It’s all going to be OK.”

I decided that it was best for me to get things wrapped up as quickly as possible. While Martin was still sobbing, I gingerly got up and went over to Elaine’s printer, where I took the documents from the tray and shoved them in a manila folder. For a second I thought about just taking off in a run and leaving Martin there in the office, but I realized that this was too risky. If I exited through the front, the door was too damn loud to avoid detecting, and if I tried to go out through the back, I’d have to make it all the way through the office to the kitchen and call the elevator before he’d noticed. Even though I figured I could probably out-run Martin, to the best of my knowledge he was still holding the taser that my torso ached from. Not worth the risk.

I quickly came up with a better plan—I went back into the office, where I grabbed the box of tissues from Elaine’s desk and waved them in front of Martin’s face.

“OK, I have your reports here, everything you need for Guy Farner, and you’re going to get your things we’re going to go have a drink. I think we both need one, don’t you?”

“Really?” he snotted up at me, taking a tissue and shoving part of it up his nose. “Do you think we can go to Linda’s again? That was really fun.”

“Sure, why not?” I stuttered. Much to my surprise, he seemed to be buying it.

“Oh, good. I seriously need a drink. Maybe five drinks!” He snorted with laughter.

I took a couple of steps towards the door, giving him an encouraging smile. Martin stood up and looked like he was ready to go. I started walking away from Elaine’s office towards the back entrance, where Martin and I normally exited together. I chatted him up as we went—I wanted to make this experience seem as normal as possible. “Where’s your coat?” “Do you have your wallet?” “Do you want me to drive?” I kept spouting off questions as we walked before he could even answer them. He followed me, ominously silent.