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"Oh, Norman, do I have to?"
"Give me a break, Gwen. I have to be here a little late."
"But Rod's taking me to lunch at the Sky Room today. If he tells me what I think he's going to tell me, there will probably be a lot of meetings and parties this afternoon."
"I know it's tough, sweetheart," said Norman, "but I wouldn't ask you if it wasn't important."
"How about if I call Esperanza and ask her to stay late tonight?"
"If you can get her to stay, that's fine," said Norman. "Just so long as you know I can't leave at five."
Gwen must have been pleased with this evidence of a new commitment to his job, because she promised she would take care of it.
Norman wished her luck at her luncheon and hung up. He didn't tell her about Jacqueline because he was afraid it might spoil her day. Later that night would be soon enough.
He never really got any work done for the rest of the day. He reset the voice mail for the whole department so it answered without ringing any telephones at him. Then he stared out his window at the parking lot. He watched cars drive in. He watched cars drive away. He watched people get in and out of cars, come in the building, leave the building. He had never watched this before, and he hadn't realized the company parking lot was this active during the day. Then it occurred to him that he might have the opportunity to watch Pierce arrive around dusk. It would be interesting to see what kind of car he drove.
At five o'clock, he watched the parking lot empty itself. The arc lights came on when the sky was still orange, and the parking lot continued to look as if it were in daylight after the rest of the sky had gone quite dark. When the crush of departing employees was over, there were a dozen cars left besides Norman's. His car sat alone in one of the nearer rows, while the rest clustered in the least desirable corner of the lot. Norman assumed they belonged to the security and cleaning people.
He watched the lot for a long time, but he saw no cars enter. He decided he would just have to wait until Pierce got here, no matter how long it took. He looked at his watch at quarter to six. Except for the artificial illumination, it was completely dark out. His telephone rang. As he reached for it, he remembered setting the system to answer without ringing.
"Human Resources," said Norman.
"Norman," said Pierce, "I suppose you want to see me."
Norman wondered how Pierce had overridden his programming of the telephones, but he didn't have time to think about it.
"Are you in your office?" said Norman.
"Yes," said Pierce, "but I'm getting ready to leave for a meeting."
"I have to talk with you," said Norman. "I'll be right up."
"Don't bother," said Pierce. "I'm leaving. Why didn't you just leave a message for me?"
"I need to talk with you in person." Norman dropped the telephone receiver on the desk and bounded out the door to the elevators. He tapped the call button eight or nine times, trying to make the elevator come faster. When it arrived, he got on and went up to the fifth floor. Once again, the elevator disgorged him into total darkness.
He wasn't cautious this time, but strode rapidly in the direction of Pierce's office. The Finance Department was deserted. Norman got to Pierce's door, knocked, and opened it. He went into the office without waiting to be invited. The halogen desk lamp wasn't on this time, and the place was tomb dark.
"Pierce," said Norman into the darkness, "is it all right if I turn on a light? I can't see a thing."
There was no answer.
Norman felt around the doorway until he found a light switch. He pushed it on. The overhead lights came on, but Norman found himself alone in the office. He walked over to Pierce's desk to pound his frustration out on it. But as he raised his hand, the motion caused a twinge in the swollen bruise he had started on his own desk.
He dropped his hand to his side and tried to understand what was happening. Pierce had run away. He wouldn't do that unless he was afraid of talking with Norman about Jacqueline, would he? He wouldn't be afraid unless he had something to hide.
Norman dropped himself into one of the two chairs across from Pierce's desk and looked at the empty chair next to him. Just three nights before, he had sat here and watched something bizarre. He had watched his boss do something to one of his employees that looked like sexual assault. She had moaned, and Norman had stared at the floor until he fell asleep. He stared at the floor again now. Under the empty chair, there was an irregular pattern of brownish red spots on the beige carpet.
Norman got down on his hands and knees next to the chair. There were four round spots, three about the size of dimes and one about the size of a quarter. They were perfectly round, as if someone had dripped a small amount of some sort of liquid, and it had soaked right into the carpet. Norman had seen this color somewhere recently. It took him a moment to realize it was the color of Pierce's eyes.
Norman touched the largest spot. It was dry, and the carpet nap was stiffened with it. It looked like blood. It looked like someone had been bleeding here. Had Pierce cut Jacqueline when he bent over her? Was that what made her moan?
Norman rubbed the dried, stiffened blood again, for that was surely what it was. Pierce might not have cut Jacqueline, but there was something going on here that was far beyond Norman's meager understanding. This needed professional help.
Norman met the police officers at the front desk. After a little tiff with the security man (Norman realized he should have let him know he was calling the police), he took them up to Pierce's deserted office. There were two of them: a youngish woman who looked like a bank clerk and an older man who looked like the guy at the department store that they call out of the office to come approve your check.
The check-approving policeman was named Detective Riordan. He could have used some of the spray-on hair Norman had seen on television the other day. He had a lined but hearty-looking face. His stomach was just beginning to protrude a little over his belt. The Police Department apparently didn't have an employee fitness program. The bank clerk, introduced to him as Detective Capuano, was a dark-haired woman with the pale eyes of a character actress whose name Norman couldn't remember. He judged her to be in her late twenties. She didn't talk at all at first, but looked around Pierce's office while her partner asked Norman questions.
Riordan asked Norman for his name and address and his job title and responsibilities with the company. He wrote Norman's answers laboriously into a small notebook with a ballpoint pen that appeared to have a Police Department emblem on the pocket clip. Norman recognized the pen as the kind organizations give as gifts and incentives. He received glossy catalogs for that kind of stuff all the time.
"You say that you and your boss were with the dead woman on Friday night," said Riordan, "and that you saw him do something to her. What did he do?"
"I don't know exactly," said Norman. "He got right up close to her."
Detective Riordan wrote in his little book, taking a long time before finishing and asking his next question. "Well, what did you see?"
"He bent over her, then I heard her moan."
The younger officer, who was examining Pierce's Save the Wildlife letter opener, looked up from it and appeared to listen more closely.
"What happened then?" said Riordan.
"I'm not sure. I fell asleep."
"Wait a minute." Detective Riordan held his pen poised over the notebook. "Let me make sure I have this straight. You're sitting in a chair by this woman, and your boss goes up close to her and bends over her. You hear her moan, and then you fall asleep. Is that it?
"I guess it sounds strange," said Norman. "Pierce told me to take a nap, and I fell asleep."
"Ah." The police officer continued to hold his pen over his notebook, but he wasn't writing anything. "When he told you to take a nap, did he like, gesture hypnotically or anything?"
Norman realized Riordan was making fun of him.
"I don't know. Maybe I fainted or something."
"Had you been drinking, by any chance?" Riordan closed the cover of his notebook unobtrusively and smiled at Norman.
Norman realized how ridiculous it sounded. "I admit I didn't see it very well," said Norman, "but I know something happened."
"Right next to you," prompted Riordan.
"He bent over her," said Norman. "Then she moaned, and I was too embarrassed to watch."
Riordan seemed about to make a remark, but Detective Capuano spoke up.
"What do you think happened?" Her voice was surprisingly deep and throaty.
"I don't know," said Norman.
The older officer looked at her, and for an instant, Norman thought he detected a small resentment at her intrusion into his interrogation.
"Do you think he assaulted her?" said the woman.
"I don't know," said Norman. "She moaned, but it didn't really sound like she was in pain."
"Do you think she was enjoying what he did to her?" said Riordan. He still wasn't making any notes.
Detective Capuano shot him a venomous look.
"I wouldn't call it enjoyment," said Norman. "More like a kind of release. Like a letting-go."
"You'll have to describe it better than that," said Riordan. "Do you want Detective Capuano here to try to imitate it? Moan for the man, Detective Capuano."
Norman and Riordan both looked at Detective Capuano. She glared back at Riordan, and Norman was certain he'd never seen such hatred in a person's face. He realized the Detectives Riordan and Capuano were in the process of working out some interpersonal issues involved in their partnership. He thought it probably wasn't a good idea to lead them in a team-building exercise just then. He wanted to get the interview over with.
"Look," said Norman. "I realize this sounds kind of crazy. But he bent over her, she moaned, and then I fell asleep. One of my people talked with her neighbor this morning and found out she was dead. Then I came up here this evening and found blood stains on the carpet." He pointed at the floor by the chair. "Right there."
Detective Capuano knelt on the floor to examine the red spots.
Riordan studied him. "You haven't answered my question yet."
"What was it?"
"Were you drinking on Friday night?"
"No." Norman tried not to be offended. The question must be pretty routine.
"Do you do any drugs?"
"No," said Norman.
"You aren't giving us much to work with here," said Riordan. "You haven't come up with anything that sounds like a police matter yet."
"What about the blood?" said Norman.
Riordan looked down at the spots, where Detective Capuano was scaping a sample into a small plastic bag with a Swiss Army knife. "Could be blood," she said without looking up.
"Not much of it, though, is there?" Riordan looked back at Norman. "What did you do to your hand?"
Norman looked down at his swollen hand. "I caught it in a door. Doesn't it look like he might have cut her or something?"
"Blood doesn't always mean somebody's been cut," said Riordan. "Maybe somebody had a nosebleed, or maybe it was her time of the month, and she wasn't ready for it."
Detective Capuano stood up and glared at him again.
Riordan handed him a business card. "We'll take the sample to Forensics and see if it tells us anything. If you come up with anything else, call me."
Norman took the card. "Yeah."
"I don't know how much follow-up we're going to do." Riordan shrugged, as if he thought the matter was a waste of his time but there was nothing he could do about it. "It depends on what we hear about the dead woman from the Coroner."
Norman felt bewildered. "Is there going to be an autopsy?"
"Always is, unless the cause of death is pretty obvious." Riordan turned to look for his partner, but she was already leaving. He started to follow her. "They're probably doing it now."
Norman wondered what kind of conversation Riordan and Capuano were going to have back in their squad car. He stood awkwardly with Riordan's card in his hand. He heard the bell signal the arrival of the elevator and then the sound of the door sliding open. With his swollen hand, he tucked Riordan's card into his jacket pocket. Before he heard the elevator door slide shut, Detective Capuano spoke.
"Don't you ever--"
Her remark was cut off as the door closed.
Norman was left alone to try to understand what had happened and what he should do about it. He looked at his watch. It was seven o'clock already. He wondered if Gwen had made the kids' dinners. He thought about calling her, then he decided to just go home. He looked out at the parking lot. There was an unmarked car parked directly in front of the front door. It was the one the detectives had come in. Norman turned and started toward the doorway and the light switch, and he heard the elevator chime again. He stopped and looked around, thinking one of the police officers had forgotten something, but he didn't see anything that looked out of place.
When he turned back toward the doorway, he saw two people standing in the shadows out in the reception area. One of them was short, and in the gloom, Norman recognized his boss's white hair. He knew the stress was getting to him because, although she dressed and moved differently, Pierce's shadowed companion reminded him of Jacqueline.
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