Dan Bednarick came back to his office from lunch one Tuesday around 12:20, and dictated a few notes on two projects; things that had occurred to him while he ate. He opened his door to tell Zeena, his secretary that he wanted them transcribed. As usual, she was on the phone. She looked up and said "Just a second, Dan's here," into the mouthpiece. He told her about the notes.
"In the Common folder? I'll have them done in half an hour, Dan," she said. "By the way, I have Reese on the line, anything you want to say to her?"
Reese was his lovely wife ... and Zeena's daughter. Reese was off from her part-time library job on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and he'd noticed that she and her mother often chatted after he came back from lunch. It didn't bother him. He judged people by results and Zeena was a great secretary.
"Nope," he said, "Except to tell her how much I love her." With a grin, he waved and went back in his office
Zeena brought the phone back up. "Did you hear him?" Her daughter's voice said "yes."
"But you're still..."
"Mother, let's not go there again. It'll all be over soon."
"You should end it today, Reese. Right now," Zeena urged.
"No. I'm not quite ready for that. It'll probably be after Thursday."
Zeena nearly slammed the phone down, wondering when her daughter had lost all of her common sense. She cast a sad look at Dan's door and went to work transcribing the notes.
Meanwhile, Dan had settled himself for his afternoon's work. He'd used the morning to review the status of all the projects that Bednarick Security Consultants had going. On the whole he'd been satisfied. On the whole. But there were the usual few laggards, and that was beginning to drive him toward some decisions. There were two account reps who were simply not working up to his standards. They were disorganized and careless at times, and full of excuses that were often little more than self-serving lies.
That was the worst of it. If they were just in over their heads and honest about it, he could move them back into production and give some other people a chance at the account rep jobs. But he could not stand lying. He always tried to keep tight control over his emotions, but those two were provoking his anger.
You make a mistake, you screw up; you admit it and take the consequences. He had never fired a person for simply not being up to the demands of a hard job. In a case like that, it was also partly the fault of the person who promoted the man or woman, which sometimes meant him.
Dan found some more email in his email inbox, and had to spend an hour responding to it. Nothing critical, but necessary to retain good customer relations.
That done, he finally got to his real afternoon's work: preliminary design for a complete security upgrade of a downtown hospital. It had been built in the 1930's and the last time the security was overhauled was in the '70's.
He had done a little bit of one-man brainstorming at home and had his notes and the original specs and drawings digitized on his thumb drive. But when he went to get it out of his briefcase, it wasn't in the small pocket. Nor was it anywhere else in the case. He emptied out his pockets, but with small hope.
He mentally ran through his morning routine and realized that he must have forgotten it on his dresser that morning. Hell, he thought, more wasted time. Be a miracle if he got much worthwhile work done today at all. He'd have to make a quick run home.
He grabbed his coat and went out to Zeena's alcove. He breezed by her, telling her where he was going. He was vaguely aware that she called something after him, but he just kept moving. Out in the parking lot, he patted his pockets and realized that his run of absentmindedness was still going. He'd dumped out his car keys while searching. So he turned around and went back inside.
As he neared Zeena's alcove, he heard her on the phone. He heard, "Hurry, Dammit. He's on his way NOW!" Then she hung up the phone as he came around the corner and went into his office. He reappeared holding up his keys and joked about his crappy memory. When he was in the car, he recalled the terse statement and wondered. Who was the "He" if not him?
When he walked into his house, Reese ran up from the utility room when she heard him come in, saying that he had startled her. She said she was doing a big load of wash. Her face was flushed and she seemed a bit flustered.
"Just came home for my thumb drive," he said as he bounded up the stairs. In the master bedroom he saw that the bed had been stripped. He looked around on his dresser until he found the missing thumb drive and decided to take a leak before he headed out.
In the bathroom he noticed two things. One was that the toilet seat was up. If there was anything that Reese had fussed over since they had come together six years before, it was the old canard about men being inconsiderate and leaving the seat up.
After he peed, he flushed and put the seat down. Then his eyes fell on their clothes hamper. It was an open weavework, and he could see that it was half full.
Guess she was just doing bedding, he thought. On his way out, he gave Reese a soft peck on the cheek and said, "My apologies, Sweetheart."
"Apologies? For what?"
"For leaving the toilet seat up. I'm surprised you didn't give me The Lecture when I came in."
"The toilet seat?" Then she looked startled. "Uh, no, I didn't notice. Lucky for you, buster," she recovered.
As he went out to the garage to get in his car, he caught a whiff of some out-of-place odor. He glanced over at the workbench, thinking that something might have spilled. He saw nothing. He got in his car and went back to work.
Was it just his imagination, or did Zeena look at him closely when he returned?
He got very busy, as his email inbox had refilled in his absence. Some junk, quickly consigned to the trash. The rest were mini fire drills, all important, but all readily fixable once he got cracking. So much for his planned afternoon work! He noticed that 80 percent of them were due to sloppy work by a few of his account reps. It was always the same ones, he noted. The ones who had to be counseled and mentored constantly to avoid careless errors. Once more he told himself that he was going to have to do something about them. They were bad for his business. And they lied to try to cover themselves. He hated liars.
Later, Zeena came in with a list of things that Reese needed picked up on the way home, and reminded him that they had a homeowner's meeting that evening.
He groaned at that. At least two hours of wasted time in the evening after a so-so day at work.
He got home with just enough time to grab a quick bite that Reese had ready, change clothes, and go to the meeting. After two and a half hours of bickering, the meeting was finally over, with nothing settled. He and Reese went home and made sweet, leisurely love until they both fell asleep, sated.
Wednesday was unexceptional. He got a little work done on the hospital project. There were only two major problems that popped up, and one of them required a trip out to the suburbs to mollify a client. There was a glitch in their newly installed TV surveillance system, and the account rep who had sold it and overseen its installation and system testing had forgotten to remove a blank plug and attach the live plug in its place. Dan knew the equipment intimately and immediately knew what was wrong.
He fumed at that as he drove home. There was no way she could have missed that if she had actually run through the mandatory system test checklist.
On Wednesdays, Reese worked at the library from noon til closing, so he took his time driving home. His mind went back to the previous day when some few little nagging things had caught the edges of his attention both at work and at home. The work thing was simply that he was going to have to crack down on the poor performers. He hated to think of it, but by right, he should let the worst of them go.
Once home, he wandered around, thinking. When he had come in from the garage he had recalled that odor. Nothing remained of it now, but the memory was tantalizingly familiar. He changed into his usual jeans and plaid shirt and moofed around. Reese would bring home Chinese around nine or so, so he just nibbled on some pretzels and sipped from a big bottle of Arizona tea.
He decided to be useful, so he went downstairs to fold and bring up all the bed linens.
There was only one set in the dryer, the ones that had been stripped off the big bed the day before. That was odd, he thought. Reese always gathered up the biggest load possible to run laundry. Had to save energy, she always said. Why on earth would she have done just the one set?
He folded the sheets and brought them up to put away in the linen closet.
That brought him the master bedroom. He looked in at the toilet and noted that the seat was safely down. Then he stopped and looked at it again.
He NEVER left it up. And he had a clear recollection of not doing that Tuesday morning. He remembered sitting on it to tie his shoelaces when Reese had bustled in and pushed him off the edge of the bed so she could make it up.
She had made the bed. The question was, why? When she was going to strip the beds, she left them as they were until wash time. Why make a bed you were going to strip off its sheets later? He knew there might be housewives who were anal enough to do it, but Reese was more easygoing than that.
.... There is more of this story ...