Shopaholic Takes Manhattan

Page 104

So four days later, at about six o’clock in the evening, I walk slowly toward the doors of Brandon Communications, my heart thumping. Luckily it’s the friendly doorman on duty. He’s seen me visit enough times to just wave me in, so I don’t have to have any big announcements of my arrival.

I walk out of the lift at the fifth floor, and to my surprise, there’s no one on reception. How weird. I wait for a few seconds — then wander past the desk and down the main corridor. Gradually my steps slow down — and a puzzled frown comes to my face. There’s something wrong here. Something different.

It’s too quiet. The whole place is practically dead. When I look across the open-plan space, most of the chairs are empty. There aren’t any phones ringing; there aren’t any people striding about; there aren’t brainstorming sessions going on.

What’s going on? What’s happened to the buzzy Brandon C atmosphere? What’s happened to Luke’s company?

As I pass the coffee machine, two guys I half-recognize are standing, talking by it. One’s got a disgruntled expression and the other is agreeing — but I can’t quite hear what they’re talking about. As I come near, they stop abruptly. They shoot me curious looks, then glance at each other and walk off, before starting to talk again, but in lowered voices.

I can’t quite believe this is Brandon Communications. There’s a completely different feel about the place. This is like some deadbeat company where no one cares about what they’re doing. I walk to Mel’s desk — and, along with everyone else, she’s already left for the night. Mel, who normally stays till at least seven, then takes a glass of wine and gets changed in the loos for whatever great night out she’s got planned.

I root around behind her chair until I find the parcel addressed to me, and scribble a note to her on a Post-it. Then I stand up, hugging the heavy package to me, and tell myself that I’ve got what I came for. Now I should leave. There’s nothing to keep me.

But instead of walking away, I stand motionless. Staring at Luke’s closed office door.

Luke’s office. There are probably faxes from him in there. Messages about how things are going in New York. Maybe even messages about me. As I gaze at the smooth blank wood, I feel almost overwhelmed by an urge to go in and find out what I can.

But then — what exactly would I do? Look through his files? Listen to his voice mail? I mean, what if someone caught me?

I’m standing there, torn — knowing I’m not really going to go and rifle through his stuff, yet unable just to walk away — when suddenly I stiffen in shock. The handle of his office door is starting to move.

Oh shit. Shit. There’s someone in there! They’re coming out!

In a moment of pure panic, I find myself ducking down out of sight, behind Mel’s chair. As I curl up into a tiny ball I feel a thrill of terror, like a child playing hide-and-seek. I hear some voices murmuring — and then the door swings open and someone comes out. From my vantage point, all I can see is that it’s a female, and she’s wearing those new Chanel shoes which cost an absolute bomb. She’s followed by two pairs of male legs, and the three begin to walk down the corridor. I can’t resist peeping out from behind the chair — and of course. It’s Alicia Bitch Longlegs, with Ben Bridges and a man who looks familiar but whom I can’t quite place.

Well, I suppose that’s fair enough. She’s in charge while Luke is away. But does she have to take over Luke’s office? I mean, why can’t she just use a meeting room?

“Sorry we had to meet here,” I can just hear her saying. “Obviously, next time, it’ll be at 17 King Street.”

They continue talking until they reach the lifts, and I pray desperately that they’ll all get inside one and disappear. But as the lift doors ping open, only the familiar-looking man gets in — and a moment later, Alicia and Ben are heading back toward Luke’s office.

“I’ll just get those files,” says Alicia, and goes back into Luke’s office, leaving the door open. Meanwhile, Ben is lolling against the water dispenser, pressing the buttons on his watch and staring intently at the tiny screen.

This is horrendous! I’m trapped until they leave. My knees are starting to hurt and I’ve got an awful feeling that if I move an inch, one of them will crack. What if Ben and Alicia stay here all night? What if they come over to Mel’s desk? What if they decide to make love on Mel’s desk?

“OK,” says Alicia, suddenly appearing at the door. “I think that’s it. Good meeting, I thought.”

“I suppose.” Ben looks up from his watch. “Do you think Frank’s right? Do you think he might sue?”

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