I was walking into the Tornado corporate offices and it felt like I was walking to my own execution. The driver who picked me and Jimmy Hersted up at the airport, told me to walk right in, and go to the big desk. He never said the foyer was the size of a football field. He also forgot to mention that everyone was part of the organization or one of Mr. Updykes other businesses.
When I walked through the door it seemed like every single person in the foyer stopped and looked at me. The worst part was they didn’t stop watching me. They watched me walk all the way up to the desk that was manned by a couple of young men who looked like they just started shaving a few years ago.
“Um. Cassie Lewis to see Mr. Updyke.” I said.
One of the young men looked at his computer screen and smiled. “Yes you have his only appointment this morning. He is sending someone down for you now.”
He indicated a few seats across from the desk and I politely took the recommendation and the chance to sit and compose myself. I wasn’t sure if I should be flattered or scared that I was the only appointment on a Monday morning for such an important man. A woman about my age approached and she was looking like I was her top priority, and she wasn’t pleased about it.
“Miss Lewis, I’m Tammy, if you would accompany me please.” She asked and I jumped to my feet.
“Thank you for escorting me.” I said. “My name’s Cassie.”
“Nice to meet you Cassie. Mr. Updyke had something he needed to check into and he asked if I would give you a quick tour of some of the facility. Will that be alright?” She asked.
“Of course,” I answered. She was a pretty girl and if she was Mr. Updyke’s assistant I had to believe she was very competent.
“How was your flight in? I believe you came in on the company jet with Jimmy?”
“Yes, I was very fortunate that the plane was there to give him a ride and that I could tag along. I planned on flying in myself but it was nice to not have to worry about baggage and stuff. It was funny watching my bag get loaded up with Jimmy’s hockey sticks.” I said giggling.
Tammy giggled too and I felt an instant bond with her. We got into an elevator and she pressed floor fifteen, two floors from the top.
“How long are you in town for?” She asked making small talk.
“As long as it takes.” I said without thinking. “I’m sorry, what I should have said is that I have something I need to do, and I don’t know how long it will take. The driver said he would take my bags to the car area until I left.”
“Yes, he will take care of your bags. I heard that you know Mr. Miles?” She inquired.
At once my defense mechanism flared. I looked at her even closer now. She was pretty in that girl next door kind of way, and she had an innocence that couldn’t be denied. Is this why she was escorting me? Was this the girl that Joe found.
“I, um, we were very close. His leaving left a gap that I am hoping to fill back up.” I said wondering if I already said to much.
“Yes he is wonderful. I wish he would have joined this side of the organization years ago.” She said and I noticed the stone on her left hand. She was engaged.
It couldn’t be Joe? He hadn’t been here long enough to get that close to someone had he? I mean he just left me a little while ago, it couldn’t be him.
“This is our accounting floor. This is where we run the numbers and take care of all the day to day business for the Tornadoes and some of the Tailwinds.” She said and then she went on to explain who reported to who and what position everyone held in the scheme of things. I had no idea why she was explaining all this to me, but I listened like there might be test afterword.
Then she took me up to the next floor. Floor Sixteen held offices for various vice-presidents and their assistants. She introduced me to Barb. Barb was a few years older than us and was very pleasant. She had a heart shaped face and red curly hair that I didn’t know if it was real or bottle. Either way it was nice to meet her.
“Barb will take care of materials and find whatever is needed to keep the process running. She is an excellent assistant, but she misses the mark on the subtleties that come with numbers and how to define them. She is black and white, and sometimes in this business you have to know how to read gray.” Tammy said leading me back toward the elevator.
“She seems nice. I don’t want to seem rude, but why are you telling me about people’s habits? I’m not sure you want people outside the organization to know these things.” I said knowing I would never tell anyone outside the bank about any of my employees’ strengths or weaknesses.
Tammy just smiled at me. We reached the top floor and talk about grandiose? There was a waterfall running in the center of the floor with tropical fish swimming in and around the rocks and caves.
“Wow,” I said when I saw it.
“Yeah, and expensive as hell to maintain. This is the top floor and this is where the heads of the companies have their offices. This is more pizazz than what is needed, but appearances can influence people. That is why I showed you the other two floors. They are where the real work gets done, this is more for meetings and appearance.”
“I can see that. I know I wouldn’t be able to work along knowing there were fish swimming all around me without watching them. They are beautiful.” I said dragging my gaze away and following her.
“That is why my office is one floor down. I like the fish too, but they can be distracting.” She said leading me into a conference room. She motioned for me to take a seat at one end and then she took the seat across from me leaving the head of the table empty.
I was about to ask why we were in here, but then the door opened and Thomas walked in. He was dressed like he was going to have a formal debriefing and I stood up as he entered. He saw me and smiled and walked up and took my hands.
“It’s nice to see you again Cassie. Did you enjoy the tour with Tammy?” He asked letting go and taking the head chair.
“It was informative. I understand the reasons behind the layout. It is well thought out.” I said meaning every word.
“Good, now for the reason you are here.” He said indicating that I should continue but before I could he spoke again. “You need a favor from me. A chance to talk quietly with someone we both admire very much, but I saw this a chance to help myself.”
I was confused. Ok, I was downright bewildered.
“You see, with your banking and business background, I could use you for a few days. If you would help one of my executives for a few days, I will get you all the time you need with our mutual friend. If you help me, I will help you, and I will even fly you back to Syracuse in the company jet when you are all done here. Do we have a deal?” He asked.
I had no idea how I could help him or one of his executives, but if it was a chance to see Joe, I would do it. “Mr. Updyke, I will do whatever you need, but I only took a week off work. Will it be done by then?”
“You will have your meeting by then, yes. As far as your work goes. I already called the head of the bank and told him thank you for letting me borrow you. He said I could keep you as long as I needed and that the bank was always happy to assist me in any way.” He said laughing.
I laughed as well. It seemed like this was all being done without my knowledge but who was I to say anything? I needed him to get what I wanted, and he needed me to help, so we both got what we wanted. It sounded good.
“Then I am ready to help in any way that I can.” I said.
“Good, good. Tammy can you get the desk in your office ready please. We will join you shortly.” He asked.
“Of course, it will take only a few minutes.” She said standing up and I did as well.
She left and I looked back at him.
“Yes, you will be helping Tammy. She has a lot going on right now. I also thought it would be good for the two of you to get to know each other over the next few days.” He said.
My heart dropped. It was Joe who gave her the engagement ring, my ring. “Um sir?”
“Tammy is the Genereal Manager of the Tornadoes, and the job is overwhelming. She honestly needs your help, and I promised Joe I would get her help. Well you’re here, so I am putting you to work.” He said.
He didn’t even feel bad that he was making me work with Joe’s girlfriend. How could anyone be so cold. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be around the woman Joe loved more than me. I could feel my face getting red and my breathing began to stagger.
“Joe,” I whispered.
“Yeah, I had to come up with a good excuse to get rid of him for a few days. Didn’t want to take the chance he might bump into you today, now did I?” He said.
“So Joe doesn’t know I’m here? He doesn’t know I’m working with Tammy?”
“Of course not. I mean the way you two left it, I didn’t know how well he would take it. So what is your end goal Cassie, why are you here?” He asked.
“I want Joe back. I want him in my life. I’m sorry sir, but I need Joe.” I just about cried out.
“I do too. Joe is very important to me. I want what is best for Joe, and if that’s you, then so be it. If it’s not, well, then that’s how it has to be. I will get you time with Joe. Are you willing to help me first?”
Could I do this? Could I work with Joe’s girlfriend and then try to take him from her? “Sir, does Tammy know about me?”
“Of course. I tell her everything. She is a smart girl, and I can tell you this, she wants what is best for Joe too.” He said.
“I see,” I said and I did. It was the old “keep your enemy’s closer logic.” It just was weird. “Whatever I have to do sir. I need to talk to Joe and fix things.”
“I know sweetheart. I heard you already talked to the Tailwind team, and then when I had to talk to Mamma Jade, well, we won’t go into details, but I will tell you this. If you learn and help Tammy, that will go a long way to getting Joe back.”
I wasn’t sure how that would all work, but I didn’t care. I wanted Joe, and I had to try. “Yes sir, when do you want me start?”
“Right now. I already had the driver take your bags to the condo you’ll be staying in. A company car will take you there every night and pick you up in the morning. Everyone here in the office building has been briefed on your arrival and that you are now working with the GM to brighten our future.” He explained.
“Sir, it seems like you already knew what I would say?”
“Of course,” he said looking bewildered at why I was even wondering.
“So Barb,” I asked in a questioning voice?
“Your assistant for the duration. She only answers to you. You have a lot to go through, so we should get going.” He said leading me out of the office.
“Not to press, but how did you know I wouldn’t say no?”
“Then you wouldn’t have been the right woman for Joe.” He said and that ended any doubts on either of our faces.