Trish tapped her foot impatiently and grunted in frustration as the numbers on the elevator sign slowly crept upward. Maybe two trips would have been a better idea but the thought of making her way all the way up to the 37th floor only to turn on her heel and make her way back down again and then up a second time was exhausting to even think about. Not to mention the fact it would add almost ten whole minutes to her commute from the parking lot and impede her spotless record for punctuality. Still, as she juggled her purse and laptop bag and stack of new case files and mail and coffees and breakfast and the dry cleaning she had picked up for Mr. Sinova, ten minutes was starting to sound like not such a terrible price to pay.
Her internal debate was interrupted by the ding of the elevator. “Oh finally,” she sighed. Trish cautiously made her way to her desk, trying very hard not to drop any of the things she had balanced precariously in her arms. She couldn’t wait to drop everything and take a few moments of solace to indulge in the cronut she had decided to treat herself with last minute. “You work too hard,” she chided herself, “You deserve to let loose a little every once in a while. And gosh darnit you’ve earned that high calorie, fattening, sugary breakfast treat.”
A woman with dark hair and red lips brushed past her quickly before disappearing through the emergency stairwell. The encounter was so sudden it made her jump with surprise, almost causing her to drop her armful of office wares. “Rude!” Trish said aloud. Ordinarily she wouldn’t be so easily ruffled but the fact she was already running behind and the risk of ruining her record was doing a number on her anxiety. She rushed to her desk and released everything in her arms before dropping herself down into her ergonomic desk chair and letting out a deep, relieved sigh. “And with three whole minutes to spare,” she congratulated herself. “Lucky for me it only takes one minute to put Mr. Sinova’s dry cleaning away!”
Trish pushed away from her desk and grabbed the dry cleaning and the spare coffee she had purchased for her boss and made her way Mr. Sinova’s corner office. She entered so quickly and determinedly she didn’t even notice the state of the office she had just walked into. Her self-imposed tunnel vision faded as she hung up the dry cleaning and realized the rest of the closet was in disarray. In fact, the entire office was in disarray. “What happened in here?” she breathed. Mr. Sinova was always such a classy and put-together man, she couldn’t picture him ever allowing his office to exist in such a chaotic state. Papers pushed off the desk. His name plate, “Chaz Sinova, CEO”, tossed aside like it meant nothing. The chairs up turned and shoved out of place.
Trish gasped when she noticed the empty whisky glasses and the bottle of Macmallan sitting on top of the desk and not tucked away safely in the drawer where they resided, ‘only to be used for the most important of business meetings and never anything else’ he would say. She blushed when she noticed one of the glasses was stamped with a lipstick stain. “A woman was here?” she said to herself as her heart sank picturing Mr. Sinova with another woman. She reached for the glass before noticing the open briefcase sitting beside it. Heart ache and curiosity got the better of her and she reached for the briefcase instead. Her eyes widened and she stared slack jawed at the briefcase as the coffee she had been holding fell to the floor.
“Trish. N-no. It… it’s not what… what it looks like!” Mr. Sinova managed to get out through slurred words. He stood in the doorway of the office slumped against the door frame. His hair was a mess, his collar and tie were both undone, and his usually pristinely pressed dress shirt was in an alarmingly disheveled state. A twisted mix of shock, panic, and defeat plastered across his face. “P-please, Trish. Y- you have to… to believe me.”
“What happened!?” Trish nearly screamed it, though she didn’t mean to.
“They’re looking…” his voice was barely a whisper. “Isabella…”
Mr. Sinova’s knees gave out and he fell hard against the door frame and slumped backwards. Blood streamed from his nose as Trish rushed to his side. He was out cold. She didn’t know if it was from the blow to the head or something else but he wasn’t going to be much help figuring out what was going on. “What the hell is going on here?” She stood and looked around, trying to figure out what she should do first.
Trish knew there was no way she was going to be able to lift Mr. Sinova onto the sofa in his office. Her boss was nearly twice her size. “I can’t just leave him in the doorway…what if someone comes in.” She tried to think of anyone who might stop by but her mind was blank. “Gosh darnit Trish! Calm down!” After a deep breath she decided to drag him to the sofa. At least the coffee table would obscure him. She looked down at him. His nose had stopped bleeding. She could hear him breathing, shallow but steady. She put her fingers to his neck to check his pulse. “What are you even looking for? You’ve never checked a pulse before!” But when she pulled her fingers away they were sticky with blood. She checked where she had touched, at a small puncture in the side of his neck there was a smear of blood, just a drop. “Was he…drugged?”
“Okay this is crazy. I’m calling the cops.” She picked up the phone…no dial tone. She pressed the receiver down and tried again but the line was dead. Trish rushed to her desk but it was the same. “…Where did I put down my cell?” She looked at the spot she had dropped the case files when she came in. Her phone wasn’t anywhere. In her rush to maintain her spotless attendance record had she forgotten it in the car? She grabbed her keys to go retrieve her phone when it hit her. What had Mr. Sinova said “Isabella?” Sitting at the top of the stack of papers she had just brought in, labeled clear as day, “I. Hakis”
“Jesus what am I doing?” She reached out and grabbed the file. She opened the file and put it on the desk. Trish quickly skimmed the paperwork. Isabella Hakis…British citizen…rare imports…marital status was single… She had been arrested for smuggling and Mr. Sinova was representing her. Released on bail. She was beautiful even in her unflattering mugshot. 5’11”, dark hair, brown eyes. Trish snapped back to reality…her boss was unconscious in the other room, possibly assaulted, and she was standing here looking at a case file. She picked up the keys and hurried to her car.
“Where the heck is it!!” On the passenger side floor…of course. No wonder she forgot it the first time. Very suddenly, bent over the armrest, with her legs sticking out of the drivers side door, she was aware of someone behind her. “Don’t move. Get in the car slowly. I have a gun.”
The words hit her like needles in the back of her neck. It took all her willpower to not pee herself right there. Slowly she dropped her legs to the floor of the car and slid into the driver’s seat. The back door opened and a woman sat down behind her. She wasn’t bluffing about the gun which was still trained on the back of Trish’s head. Without a doubt this was the woman from the hallway and now that she could see her face, also the woman from the mug shot. “Isa…bella?”
“Shut the fuck up. Turn on the car and drive.” Trish’s eyes welled. This was all too much. Tears started streaming down her face as she tried to put the keys in the ignition. “Oh for Christ’s sake. I’m not going to kill you if you don’t do anything stupid. But if you don’t hurry the fuck up we’re both going to die.” Surprisingly that did little to calm Trish’s nerves, but she managed to get the car started despite her trembling hands. She put the car in gear and left the parking lot.
They drove in silence, broken only by barked instructions from Isabella. Isabella had also taken her cell phone and shut it off. After about half an hour Trish had no idea where she was. “Where are we going?”
“I’m trying to keep us both alive. Your boss sold me out and I needed to know exactly who he sold me out to. Chaz is a bastard of a man. He was supposed to be working out a deal for me to be a CI and instead he ratted on me. Now there’s a price on my head and I don’t know who placed it or who’s coming to collect. He was a greedy, selfish bastard when we were married, and time hasn’t changed that.” For the first time since they got in the car Isabella lowered the gun.
“Married?” Trish stammered.
“Oh he never told you when you two were fucking that he had an ex wife?”
Trish went silent, her mind racing so fast that thoughts barely made their way to the surface before being swept under again. Breathe, Trish. Remember what the doctor said.
She took a few deep breaths as she drove, Isabella seemingly content to fall into silence for the moment. One by one, the thoughts emerged into something coherent for her to focus on. So he’d been married… she wasn’t entirely shocked, which in itself shocked her. Perhaps there were too many shocking things to consider at the moment that this didn’t exactly feel like groundbreaking news. She had suspected when they were having their Tuesday night “meetings” that something wasn’t entirely kosher, as he’d check his phone every 21 minutes (like clockwork) and would never stay the night. She had been content to leave it at that, the secret thrill of their coworkers not knowing a thing enough to sustain her in the otherwise monotony of her life. It was only when the big boss was fired for a similar type of misconduct with the associate at the front desk did their trysts stop. A blessing in disguise, really, as it led her to find the love of her life, Jermaine.
Jermaine. Crap. He would start to worry in an hour or so where she’d gone and why she wasn’t answering her phone. Isabella seemed to feel her tense up and made a motion with her gun-wielding hand to turn right. She obliged, what else was she going to heckin’ do. She considered telling Isabella that someone was going to miss her soon, but the thought of antagonizing the lady with the gun didn’t seem like the best idea at the moment.
“Pull over in half a block and turn the lights off.” Isabella barked. Trish blanched, but obliged.
Fudgefudgefudge, she thought, this is it. I’m going to get murdered and Jermaine will never know and my mom is going to say ‘I told you so’ to anyone who would listen and
“Get. Out. Of. The. Car. Stop stalling, no one comes down this street. I told you, I’m not going to hurt you but goddamn if I’m not regretting making that promise.”
Trish stepped out, nearly falling over as her knees started to buckle. Steady, Trish. Don’t show fear.
“Take off your suit.”
Trish stared at her. A look of deep-seated annoyance flashed over her kidnapper’s face and, remembering that the bullet end of the gun was still pointed at her, she started to remove her $35 suit. Chaz had never paid her well, but she’d found the “off-brand” designer suit at Marshalls and proudly wore it into the ground. Oh crap. She hoped it wouldn’t be the thing she was buried in, why did her thoughts always turn to death?! Oh yeah, the gun.
She handed her suit over to Isabella, who had somehow gotten out of her own jeans and t-shirt while Trish’s internal monologue ran rampant. “Put these on, we’re about the same size,” she grunted, slipping into the definitely-not-peed-in suit. Confused, Trish obeyed once more, shaking less than before, until they stood there at last, the sharply-dressed gun wielder and her jean and t-shirt clad victim.
As they faced each other, a short silence fell and, in that moment, it occurred to Trish that she and Isabella looked startlingly alike. The same height, same build, same almond-shaped eyes and long, straight black hair. In fact, she could’ve been looking in a mirror, if not for the cold, severe expression looking back at her.
“I don’t have enough time to wait for you to figure it out, Trish, but I don’t feel like telling you either. Right now, what you’re going to do is start running. The men coming after me are going to be looking for a woman with our face, in those clothes.”
“What are you talking about? Start running? Where?”
At the end of the block, a dark blue car started to slowly turn the corner.
“Run. If you survive the next hour, meet me at the first spot where Chaz took you four years ago. You remember it, don’t you?”
Of course she remembered. She had been the one to make the reservation.
“Good. Meet me there in an hour, but no sooner. Go, they’re coming.”
Mind a blur once more, Trish turned to see the blue car inching closer and closer. The windows were tinted black, and the thick wheels barely made a sound on the road. If she hadn’t been looking right at it, she wouldn’t have heard them coming. She briefly considered yelling for help, but something in Isabella’s eyes and urgency twinged the deepest instincts in Trish’s mind – she’s not lying. They will not help you. Go, quickly, hide.
She took a step and paused, looking back one last time.
Her captor paused for a moment, and grinned. “Run, Isabella,” she whispered, before getting back into the car, kicking it into gear and pulling a sharp U-Turn down the street.
She froze only for a moment before bolting away, keeping to the shadows of the abandoned buildings and old, rotting trees.
58 minutes left.