Hoping to temporarily conceal the severity of the abrasions on her hands, Anna replaced the gauze bandages with over-sized band-aids. She didn't want to lie to her co-workers about her wounds, but neither did she want discuss yesterday's incident.
The flex band-aids were advertised to bend with movement, but the location of her wounds made long-term adhesion unlikely; another example of false advertising. Her next hurtle would be getting past Alicia without being interrogated. The woman didn’t miss much.
To her dismay, Anna hadn't come up with a plausible explanation of her irritability or her injured hands. Reed had seemed positive that the driver's actions were deliberate, but she wasn't ready to accuse the driver of attempted murder. The very thought that someone hated her enough to run her down, was chilling. She breathed a sigh of relief when Alicia wasn’t at her desk.
She spent most of the morning on the phone. Holding a phone was a less painful task than working on the computer, but she disliked talking to donors or suppliers when she couldn't read their body language.
Even though her face to face conversation with Beth Summerfield had not been as revealing as Anna would have liked, Anna had learned a few things about the woman. She was quick-witted and compassionate. Anna couldn't believe that she had anything to do with the accident. Besides, what would she gain by eliminating Anna?.
She’d just completed a conversation with a particularly difficult supplier, and needed a break. She'd had to bite her tongue and kowtow, when what she really wanted to do, was call the supplier an inefficient idiot. As if on cue, there was a tap on her door jam.
She glanced toward the door to see Mark standing there.
“Gotta minute,” he asked lazily?
She put down the phone. “Sure. Come on in.”
“How did the meeting with Greg Stein go?”
“On paper the spot looks good, but a lot depends on the actors. The camera crew will be filming tomorrow morning, and I should be able to preview the film tomorrow afternoon. Do you remember Jeremy Sizemore?”
“Did he do a TV spot for us last year?”
She nodded. “He’s playing the part of the doctor.”
“Good. He’ll be convincing in the role. What about the numbers for Marian?”
“I finished the reports before my meeting with Greg.”
Alicia’s voice sounded over the intercom, “Anna, there’s an Officer Connelly to see you.”
Anna’s heart pounded out of control. She took a deep breath, and prayed that she could get through the next few minutes without a meltdown. Her unexpected visitor would guarantee that everyone in the office would know about the incident, and there wasn’t one darn thing she could do about it.
“Anna, are you there?”
“Sorry. Send him back, Alicia.” She stood and moved to the door to greet the officer.
“Welcome to my world, Officer Connelly.” She ushered him into her office and introduced him to Mark. “Officer Connelly, Mark Quinn, one of my co-workers.”
The two men shook hands before taking the visitor’s seats across from Anna.
Without further pleasantries, Anna asked, “Does your visit mean that you found the car?”
“Actually, no. With no license number, and no physical description of the driver, it’s unlikely that we will find the car or identify the driver. You took quite a tumble yesterday. I wanted to make sure that there was no serious damage.”
“Thank you for your concern. I won’t lie to you. I’ve had better days, but I’ve also had worse. I was thrown by a frisky horse named Thunder when I was fifteen. I had black and blue bruises over 90% of my body, and I limped for a week.”
“That I can identify with. I was thrown once. Why did you choose to ride that particular horse?”
“Stubbornness. The thing is, Simon—the farm’s horse trainer—warned me that Thunder was temperamental, and I brushed his warning aside. I hadn’t slept well that night, and riding always helped clear my mind. I saddled and mounted Thunder without telling him why I was going for a ride before he had breakfast. Apparently, Thunder wanted to let me know that he was offended. We didn’t make it out of the paddock before he threw me.
“I didn’t know it, but Simon was in the barn. He hustled out to make sure that I hadn’t broken my “darn fool neck” (his words). To my shock, he ordered me to remount Thunder. As you can imagine, I wasn’t thrilled about the prospect, but Simon wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“He talked to Thunder while I was remounting. Then, he grabbed the bridle, and walked Thunder around the paddock twice before I was allowed to dismount. Lesson learned. I’m telling you this story, Officer Connelly, because the same thing happened yesterday. Not the same circumstances, but the same warning. I was warned to be vigilant on both occasions, and I wasn’t. That’s not going to happen again.”
Officer Connelly said, “That especially holds true in high-traffic areas. We can’t prove that the driver tried to run you down. It’s possible that he lost control of his car . . .”
Mark interrupted. “Accident or not. Anna will have protection by the end of the day.”
“I’m glad to hear it. My next recommendation was that she get out of town until this blows over.”
Anna was adamant, “For an unknown threat? I think not!
Connelly stood. “I assumed that’s what you would say. If anything changes, I’ll let you know.”
Anna said, “Thanks again for your concern. I’ll walk you out.”
“I can find my way out.” He started toward the door, turned and said, “Don’t hesitate to call if there’s another incident.”
For the first time since Officer Connelly entered her office, her eyes met Mark’s.
“Are going to say I told you so?”
“No. Two questions; would you like to add anything to what Officer Connelly said? And, did you see a physician?”
“I’ll answer your second question first. No, I didn’t see a physician. There was a nurse at the scene of the accident. She assured me that nothing was broken. As for your first question; I have little to add. It happened so fast, Mark, that I froze.
"Charles Dandridge’s son, Reed, saw what was happening and pushed me out of the way. There were witnesses, but no one took down the license number. The windows on the SUV were tinted, so a description of the driver was not possible. Reed claims that it wasn’t an accident, but I don’t think there’s any way to prove is claim.”
“Did you give Officer Connelly the Summerfield’s name as a possible suspect?”
“No. I could be wrong, but I don’t think that Beth would hire someone to run me down. She mentioned the DNA testing. I didn’t.”
“Did you get the DNA test kit?”
“It arrived yesterday.”
“Are you going to go through with the test?”
She shook her head. “Beth's brother thinks I'm an impostor. Maybe he hired someone to scare me. If that's the case, he succeeded. I’m going to call Beth and tell her that I’ve changed my mind. Then, I’m going to pray that my life will return to normal.”
“I did a background check on Ben, Anna. His record is clean. He’s a search and rescue worker, who risks his life by going into flood ravaged areas to deliver water and food. I can’t see anyone with that bio trying to scare a woman who might be his sister.”
“Probably not. But if he's not responsible, who is? All of this would be so much easier if I knew who my enemy is. The stress is turning me into someone I don't recognize. I'm becoming paranoid.
"I'm skeptical of people's motives, and I tend to distrust people I don't know. Unless I can make an attitude adjustment, I probably shouldn't be working with donors.
“You're being too hard on yourself, but I'm hoping that it will help to have someone watching your back. As I told Officer Connelly, you’ll have protection by the end of the day.”
“Why can’t we go back to the buddy system that we had in place before the Virginia trip?”
“I'm not going to be here, Anna. I’m taking a leave of absence. That's what I wanted to talk to you about.”
The news rocked Anna’s world. She’d secretly hoped that her friendship with Mark would turn into a closer relationship, but she’d seen the writing on the wall after the Virginia trip. What she hadn’t foreseen was that Mark would leave the Foundation.”
“Is that why Natalie has been coming in?”
“Yes and no. When I agreed to fill Etta’s position, I did so with the understanding that the position was Natalie’s. Her hiatus was longer than Marian or I expected. I agreed to stay on; mainly, because I enjoyed working with you. As you know, I’ve been working on projects more in line with my interests for over a year now.
"We all have to do what works for us, Anna. I need more freedom to pursue those other interests. Marian and I discussed the future of the Foundation and we both agreed that it was time for Natalie to get more involved. As long as I’m here as Marian’s back-up, Natalie won’t make a commitment.”
“I like Natalie, but she’s not a team player, and I don't perform well when I work solo. Maybe it’s time for me to turn in my resignation.”
“Anna, you’ve known this was coming. I’ve already stayed with the Foundation too long. The work is worthwhile and can be personally satisfying, but it isn’t where I need to be or want to be. You, on the other hand, are an ideal fit for the job.
"Your knee-jerk reaction is because you don’t like change. It’s unfortunate that the change comes at a time when you are dealing with personal issues, but that can’t be helped. Before you do something rash, give it a few days. Write your letter of resignation if you must, but promise me, that you will hold onto it until you’ve had time to consider the pros and cons of leaving the Foundation.”
The pain in Anna’s knees and hands was minimal compared to the ache in her heart. She wanted to beg Mark to stay, but she had too much pride. More importantly, she knew that his talents far exceeded the talents needed for his present job at the Foundation. Despite her desolation, her voice remained steady. “I promise that I will stay until the end of the year. That’s all I can promise. What are your plans?”
“I’ll be exploring options for the foreseeable future. As soon as I have a plan in place, I’ll let you know.”
“When is your last day?”
“Tomorrow, or until I can secure your safety. If I can’t find immediate protection, I will follow you home tonight. I’ll text you when I’ve made arrangements.”
“You aren’t going to leave without saying good-bye, are you?”
“We are friends, Anna. This isn’t good-bye. You have my number. If you need me, all you have to do is call.”
Anna watched in disbelief as Mark walked out of her office. For the second time in her life, she felt as though she was being abandoned.