The guard at the employee and handicapped basement entrance smiled at seeing her and did not ask for her I.D. “And guest,” she singsonged, but I already had my own special ID for the occasion, which made the guard roll his eyes. She grabbed for my hand and read it, then seemed to scowl, but at least she didn’t say anything.
“You want to join me in a private villa on a small Caribbean island, once I get my bonus for solving this?”
She gaped for a few seconds, very cute on her. “Carib, right on the beach? I’d give my ass for that!”
Snort. “Yeah, like that’s anything special.”
Sparing the time for a quick pinch to my stomach, she led me through the hallways and luckily took the elevator to the third floor. Perhaps still dreaming about tanning on the beach, she was quiet until she opened the door and entered the reception area leading to her office. Said office being empty at the moment, devoid of repairmen but not dust, she picked up a phone and called a gal she knew in some department who could bring up blueprints of the place. “Official business, wink wink,” she winked, although the friend couldn’t see it over the phone.
Trying not to yawn, I glanced over at the corner of her office and saw a fishing pole; she saw my glance and grimaced. “I’ve spent over a thousand bucks on new equipment and have yet to catch anything, not even a cold.”
“I hope when you do it’s extremely tasty.”
“Thanks for the thought. You’re such a nice guy.” Unfortunately, she was grinning hugely as she said this, and also didn’t tell me she was a catch-and-release kinda gal.
I looked out the window and saw something I didn’t like, if the expression she could see on my face was any indication. . . which it usually was. She once told me I could be a champion poker player, but when something DID show on my face, it meant I wanted her to see it.
Sighing, she went for it. “What is it?”
“You’ve been to UCLA, right?”
“How big is the campus?”
She had a vast repertoire of sighs. “I took a little tour one day we were playing there, and I couldn’t jump during practice, I was so tired.”
“The point is, it’s big, right?”
“Tiny and flat, not unlike the girls who go there.” She smiled broadly to let me know she was getting into the game.
“In comparison to UCLA?”
It took her a moment to remember they were discussing campuses, not college babes. “No, completely. It’s really small.”
“And yet everyone’s got a bike! It’s a few seconds from one side to the other. These people are lazy!” A moment’s thought. “No, they’re spoiled!”
“That was rather redundant, wasn’t it?”
“Glad you’ve learned to agree.”
“How could I dare not to?”
Still killing minutes, since the new air conditioner hadn’t made a dent yet and there wasn’t enough time to start even a quickie, I got that look that she said always made her gulp. “So what were you looking up on the computer when I ran into you?”
“You said you came to see me, so you didn’t run into me.”
Her blush told me why she was evading the question. “So I was right? Another online dating thing? Good thing you don’t have to spend a lot of money on cosmetics and such, with all the dough you must waste on those websites.”
“Talk about a backhanded compliment!” she gasped, then tried, “ever notice guys of a certain age are known as ‘Eligible bachelors,’ but much younger women are referred to as ‘Old Maids?’”
Timing as usual being everything, the knock on the door saved me from having to answer. We poured over the building diagrams for a straight fifteen minutes, me concentrating on the non-public-access parts and she not able to concentrate on anything, partly because she had no idea what to look for but mostly because I was breathing on her ear and causing her to shudder and close her eyes involuntarily, which she hilariously thought I didn’t notice.
Already formulating a plan for searching tomorrow, I took a break and reached for the fishing rod. Stretching my arms out at an angle, the butt–of the rod, not the blonde–gripped in both hands, I lowered the tip slightly until it just touched a leaf on a low-hanging branch through the window above the tall blonde. Three times I lifted the rod away, and three times I lowered the tip delicately until it touched the same leaf, without touching any others, of course, giving a little nod of satisfaction each time.
“Would it be possible for one to ask what you’re doing?” one asked politely, a little uneasily. She knew I hated fishing, so I obviously didn’t have much experience with the thing, “I really liked having two eyes, it makes looking through a microscope much easier. And losing one would hurt too, I’d imagine. Plus it’s my favorite rod, and you have a tendency to break stuff I like.”
Then she winced as she read my smile: stuff you haven’t broken yourself, you mean.
But what I said was “Just thinking.” My eyes were still intent as I touched the leaf again, my tongue out the corner of my mouth like a certain famous basketballer.
“Yeah, but I was kinda curious about what you’re actually doing, hon.”
She hardly ever brought out the pet names, so I came back to the room with a little laugh, handing her the rod. “Just an academic exercise. Muscle control and stuff. Zen and Yoda, or is that yoga? ”
“I see. . . no, I don’t. You’re baffling me again.”
“Sorry. I don’t mean to.”
In other words, college girl, you’re not smart enough to get it, she told herself, even while knowing I would never mean such a thing.
“Tell ya what, fishing guru. Why don’t you try it, and then maybe you’ll understand.”
So she tried it, somewhat defiantly. And even though she was a pro with a quick cast, to actually do it slow seemed a lot harder. And soon enough she did understand.
Checking my watch, I told her there was nothing else for me to do here right now. “I assume you drove. . .”
“Indeed.” She took a quick look around the room, then at the desktop computer. “I got nothing else to do here either, and I’d love a walk to my car. In this neighborhood–”
“Gotcha. Gear up, little filly.”
She pouted. “I hate it when you call me. . . little.”
“I don’t trust media guides, so I have no conclusive proof you’re actually six feet tall.”
“At least I don’t wear heels. And don’t give me that, you’re just a middle-blocker typa guy.”
“At least you weren’t a setter, and being a lefty gets you extra points.”
“Now THERE’S a pleasant thought,” she murmured happily as she dumped everything she needed into her bag, regardless of fragility. I didn’t hear anything breaking, so I made no mention. For some reason she added the fishing rod to her take-home stuff.
Some guy in the outer office saw the pole and asked, “What exactly are you hoping to catch?”
She shrugged. “6 foot 2, dresses GQ, knows how to take his time. . .”
Proving I was still in the conversation, I tried, “Think you’ll find that in a river?”
Feeling naughty, and remembering all the times she’d made dates blush with a well-turned phrase in public, she suddenly starletted, “I still can’t believe you don’t know about that particular sex act!”
“Maybe I just don’t live in that world as much as you do.”
Her face fell as the laughter surrounded her. He did it to me again!
Once in the hall, I shook my head in mock reproof. “You never learn, do ya?”
“Real men don’t taunt,” she pouted, then grinned nastily and shoved me against the wall. But before she could follow up, I winced as my head hit a light fixture. “Oooo, sorry, darling!”
“It’s one thing for you to be clumsy, but when it starts being dangerous to–”
“I’ve learned my lesson,” she promised. “From now on I’ll let you take the lead any time you want to fuck. Well, I’m the one most likely to start it, so I’ll tell ya I’m ready and you can. . .”
She finally noticed I wasn’t walking beside her to the elevator. Turning around, she saw me still checking for blood, having banged it harder than she’d obviously thought. Suddenly she glanced to the sides and wondered if anyone had heard her speaking to what turned out to be herself. All the doors were closed and no one was laughing, so she thought she might have gotten away with this one as she waited for me to finally join her.
She couldn’t help but laugh at the way I stuck to the other side of the elevator, then waited five seconds before exiting after her. “I got it already! I promise, I’m never going to hurt you again.”
I didn’t have much to say as I followed her a step behind, until she threw her bag into the back seat and hopped behind the steering wheel, automatically reaching over to turn on the air conditioner.
Standing way back, I told her, “I wish you were still playing volleyball.”
“When I saw you rolling around the court, I always got dirty thoughts. . .”
“Good,” she purred as she slammed the car door, luckily missing both my digits and clothes. “That’s why I played. . .”