Frank closed Marka’s door and followed Jeff to his office. His boss shut the door, inviting him to sit.
“What the hell did you do?”
“It’s not a woman,” Frank snapped.
“I wasn’t gonna ask that, Frank.”
“Sorry, Jeff. I’ve had everyone else ask me that today. I swear, I don’t know. The one person I can think of is Penwarren and he’s in the hospital.”
“How is he?”
“Haven’t heard. I was gonna call over there when I found the mess.”
“Use my phone. I’m worried about him.”
“You’re worried about a lawsuit. “Yes, sir.” He dialed the hospital and asked for information about Ralph Penwarren.
“His condition is guarded. He’s alive, that’s about all we can say. Two broken arms, a broken leg. There was damage to his spleen, spine and neck. He looked like he’d been in a major car crash.”
“He fell four stories.”
“Yeah, I was shocked.”
“Your friend is holding his own, Mr. Atherton.”
“Thank you.” He hung up and reported to his boss. “I need to go give Mabel an update.”
“You do that. Listen, did you have anything important on that computer?”
“No, sir. All my files are kept on a flashdrive and I backup everything to an external hard drive, which is still in my office. It was the first thing I checked after I noticed the tower was missing.”
“Good. Because our residents’ financial records. . . .”
“I don’t save any of that information, Jeff. I access what I need from the mainframe and purge it afterwards. The most the thief will get is a list of my favorite websites. I don’t save anything on it. The flashdrive’s on my keyring.” He held up his keys, showing his boss the quarter sized metal and plastic 32 gig drive.
“That’s a load off my mind!”
“Once I talk to Mabel, I do need to secure my various accounts and change passwords just to be safe. For the most part, I don’t save things like that even at home.”
“Do you have that stuff written down anywhere?”
Frank shook his head, tapping his temple. “Got it up here. One thing I learned in the military is you don’t leave a trail unless you want someone to track you. Same applies to files and accounts. If it’s not written down, then it can’t be traced back to you. My passwords are alphanumeric and random. I don’t use birthdays, important dates or the name of my first dog.”
“Paranoid is far more accurate.”
Jeff nodded. “Go talk to Mabel.”
“I will. First I need to tell Kim to secure that external drive for me. If it doesn’t have to be kept as evidence, we need to lock it up.”
“Gotcha covered.” He tapped his safe with his toes. “We can pop it in here.”
“I was going to take it to the vault.”
“See you later, Jeff.”
“Take it easy, Frank. Don’t panic over this. It’s not your fault.”
“Thanks.” I know that, dipshit. “Gonna go talk to Mabel now.”
Jeff nodded, dismissing him. Frank took his time, thinking over the events of the last couple of days. Marka made the point that things went to hell when he met her, but that wasn’t true. They went to hell when he encountered Ralph Penwarren. The only balance he had in the midst of all this mayhem, was her. Just thinking of her made him smile.
Had he ever felt like this about a woman before? He didn’t think so. Not even his first love, and certainly not the girl who stole his virginity when he was sixteen. Funny that he should think of that experience. Not his favorite memory and one he’d tried rather hard to forget. What she did to him really amounted to rape, although he’d eventually been an active participant. It wasn’t easy for a teenaged boy to say no to a girl who was determined to bed him.
Staff members greeted him as he walked to the nursing home. He had to pass most of the offices to get there, as well as the gift shop, cafeteria and dining room. Everybody said hello and many of them asked about his girlfriend. All of them seemed to know that she’d fixed him dinner and most of them knew he’d kissed her. More than one alluded to his spending the night. All those rumors he squelched, but knew he wasn’t believed.
The day shift supervisor greeted him as he walked up to the nursing desk. “Hiya, Frank!”
“Is Mabel awake?”
“She sure is!”
“I need to speak to her about her son.”
© Dellani Oakes