An Unexpected Guest
The two women began their drive back to Lesly’s apartment in silence. Michaela was focused on the road, and Lesly tried to get some work done on her phone to distract herself. It was not long, however, before Michaela attempted to engage Lesly in a casual conversation to see how her friend was doing after the session. She began telling her about some of the peculiar cases she encountered in her last shift. Then she ventured into the topic of peculiar people which led her to share another failed date story with Lesly. Lesly gave Michaela her full attention. She listened intently as Michaela told her about the blind date that was arranged by a colleague at work. Michaela wore a straight face the entire time she was narrating the story, but Lesly could see where it was going.
“I went and met the guy at a restaurant,” Michaela continued. “Everything seemed normal enough. We ordered some dishes, chatted and started exchanging work stories. Then he began asking questions about my job. So far so normal. The questions kept going, however. He asked me what the most potent painkillers were. I gave him a straightforward answer. Then he asked if there are any new exciting drugs. I was thrown off by the word ‘exciting,’ but decided to cut the guy some slack. He then proceeded to ask if it was possible for doctors to facilitate access to said drugs and gain a source of extra income. I got suspicious there and decided to say ‘yes’ as a joke. Words cannot describe how overjoyed he was.”
“Was he joking?” Lesly asked in disbelief.
“I wish,” Michaela shrugged. “He went on and on about how much profit I’d make and how many buyers I could get…with his help, of course.”
“What did you do?” Lesly asked laughing.
“I casually began talking about rehab centers and the amazing work they’ve been doing,” Michaela explained with a straight face.
“I sure did. He got so mad and did not say another word. He just glared at me from across the table the entire time I was eating. He didn’t even touch his food.”
“You stayed and finished your meal? You weren’t worried?” Lesly asked with a laugh.
“Hey, I paid for that meal,” Michaela explained. “Besides, I don’t think he would’ve risked doing anything in a place full of people, and even if he did, I would’ve kicked his ass.”
Lesly laughed. It was possible to visualize the scene because Michaela was indeed capable of kicking ass. The woman found joy in shooting, fencing and kickboxing and considered these outlets as therapeutic means of dealing with the stress of work. If she had chosen to “kick his ass,” he would not have been the first man to suffer her wrath.
The two women continued to chat about work, and Michaela told Lesly about the dreadful nightshift she was supposed to work tonight. She was more of a morning person and she hated wasting the days away in sleep so she can prepare herself for her night life. The redhead then told Lesly about this one horrible doctor she was supposed to cover the nightshift with and complained about the massive ego that guy carried around. This prompted Lesly to ask if there was at least a single unattached person in the hospital whom Michaela did not consider to be a total douchebag, but the answer came back negative. Lesly then began reciprocating and sharing stories of her own. Most of those centered around Stacey and how despite the fact that the woman held a lot of promise, there were times when she acted like a total airhead. Of course, those were not the sort of stories Michaela hoped Lesly would share when she casually allowed the discussion to take such a turn. She was more concerned about the new case Lesly was working on, and she tried to get her friend to talk about it.
“Speaking of work partners,” Michaela began, “you told me you accepted Reid’s offer. How’s that going?”
“Not as bad as I expected,” Lesly answered with a shrug. “He’s targeting some of the city’s high officials and he’s in the process of collecting statements. I gave him access to our database on the one condition that he would keep me in the loop every step of the way. We were doing fine for a couple of weeks, but two days ago, we had a disagreement.”
“He dug a list of names from our database and told me that he wanted to speak directly to those people because he believed that they might know something about the major players behind the trafficking scene. I told him that those people were victims. They would be terrified if he contacted them given what happened to them in the past and that I should speak to them instead. He relented, but when they refused to say anything to me, he went to them directly without discussing it with me beforehand. Some of them were really scared and I felt like I betrayed them.”
“Did he manage to convince some of them at least?” Michaela asked.
“Some of them, yes, but the others were terrified. I can’t locate them anymore. They won’t even answer my phone calls. I got so mad at him that I went straight to his office and gave him a piece of my mind right then and there.”
“I can imagine. What did he have to say?”
“He said it had to be done, that it was the only way we could move forward. He promised he’d make sure no harm comes to them, but I was already seeing red by then. I told him to go to hell and I slammed the door behind me,” Lesly explained with a hint of embarrassment.
“Does he intend to deliver on that promise?”
“He already did,” Lesly answered with a grimace. “He found them a safe place. They informed me this morning.”
Michaela contemplated the matter for a minute. Then she tried to sum it up to her friend to see whether she got it right, “So the whole thing is a misunderstanding? He thought you were okay with him stepping in after you did. You weren’t. He wasn’t aware. He got you into a very difficult position with the people who trusted you, but in the end he stepped up and kept his promise.”
“Precisely,” Lesly answered with another grimace.
“Well, a misunderstanding was bound to happen anyways. It’s not a big deal now, is it? Just try to talk to him about it.”
The two women went quite again, but Michaela could sense that Lesly was holding back one crucial detail to the matter she just shared with her. She looked at her dark haired friend and tried to see if she could get it out of her.
“Something else on your mind?” Michaela inquired innocently.
“Actually, there’s something that I’ve been meaning to talk to you about,” Lesly answered hesitantly. “Maybe we should talk about it some other time.”
“We have about ten minutes until we get to your building. Shoot.”
Lesly tried to think of the best possible way to formulate what she was about to say. She knew Michaela was going to be mad that she kept this from her for so long, but she honestly felt that it would be better to tell Michaela what happened between her and Alec after she was able to figure out what her feelings were. Lesly looked over at her friend who was focused on the road ahead of her and decided that she could not postpone this matter any longer. She took a deep breath, and told Michaela what happened as directly and briefly as possible.
“Alec and I kissed.”
Michaela almost hit the brakes when she heard that. She glanced at her friend in confusion and asked, “When did that happen?”
“A couple of weeks ago.”
“And you’re just telling me now?”
“I didn’t know how to tell you.”
“What on earth is that supposed to mean?”
“I was worried you might ask a lot of questions that I won’t be able to answer. I don’t even understand why I agreed to meet him in the first place.”
“Meet him where?”
“At a bar. He asked me out.”
Michaela pulled the hand break when the next traffic signal flashed red and gave Lesly her full attention. She wore a serious expression on her face and asked calmly, “You were on a date?”
“It seems. He told me not to think of it as such, but judging by how it went, I can safely say that all the markers were there.”
Michaela’s serious expression did not change as she asked Lesly another question, “How did it go?”
“It went fine. He was funny. He was charming. I never laughed this hard before. We talked for hours. He offered to walk me back home and then…we had a moment.”
At this point, Michaela’s expression softened a little, “Do you like him?”
“I don’t know. I think I do. Things have been more awkward between us lately. I think that’s why I argued a lot with him.”
The traffic signal flashed green, and Michaela directed her attention to the task of driving again. She was not done discussing the matter, however. Her overprotective motherly attitude was in full swing and there was no way to deter her from voicing her usual impractical request.
“I want to meet him,” Michaela demanded.
“Like hell you will.”
“Lesly Vanessa Collins, I won’t take no for an answer.”
“Would you calm down? We’re not even seeing each other outside of work,” Lesly explained to her unreasonable friend.
“But…,” Michaela struggled to explain, but decided that it was better to keep what she was about to say to herself. “Never mind. You’ll let me know if that changes?”
“Relax! It won’t. You know that.”
This response caused Michaela to feel bad about Lesly’s situation. She knew why her friend refused to socialize with anyone, and she certainly knew why Lesly insisted on remaining unattached. She was dedicated to her job, yes, but that very same job provided the perfect excuse and cover-up for why someone as attractive, accomplished and beautiful as her was still single. Lesly had always used the same set of excuses every time somebody approached her. She would say that her work took up most of her time, that her job was her number one priority or that she was not ready for a relationship yet, but Michaela knew what the real reason was. It was fear plain and simple. She did not know what exactly Lesly was scared of, but Michaela knew her friend was terrified about something. This was why Michaela found it shocking that Lesly had agreed to meet Alec outside of the usual work environment. Michaela was hopeful when Lesly first started talking about how it might be possible that she liked Alec. She though that Lesly had finally overcome her fear of connecting with someone. However, given how emphatic her tone was when she said that nothing would change, it seemed that Lesly’s issues were not resolved yet.
Light drops of rain began tapping lightly against the windshield when Michaela pulled the car in front of Lesly’s building. She offered her friend an umbrella, but Lesly refused to take it and chose to shield her head with her purse instead. She opened the car door, stepped out and started running towards the building.
“This isn’t over you know,” Michaela yelled at her stubborn friend from her car.
Lesly turned around, smiled then hurried towards the old building. Once inside, she took the elevator that was barely working to her floor and managed with difficulty to unlock the jammed door to her apartment. The door hadn’t always been this way, but a pipe that had burst a couple of days ago soaked the bottom of the door and caused the wood to swell. She forcefully shut the door, made sure it was locked and proceeded to turn the radiator in her living room on so she could get some work done on her laptop. Then, she went into the bedroom to turn the other radiator on, but upon trying to flip the light switch, she discovered that the same problem that had occurred many times in the past had occurred again. Her bedroom lost power which meant that she had to call the super to come and get the problem fixed. She took her coat off, threw it on her bed and then grabbed her phone as she marched towards the kitchen for a cup of coffee. She tried calling the super, but he didn’t pick up. She left him a voice message reminding him about the swollen door and requesting that he does something about the recurring power problem in her bedroom. Then she left her phone on the kitchen counter and proceeded to fix herself a cup of strong coffee so she could get to work.
Hours passed since she began working at around 6:00 p.m. She would have continued working beyond 10:40 p.m. if it hadn’t been for the heat that started suffocating her. Apparently, her old-fashioned radiator had started overheating the apartment again. This was another problem that she needed to remind the super about. She had called the super many times in the last week to install a thermostat, but he had been insanely busy attending to more pressing issues in the rundown building he was overseeing. There was only one thing she could do at the moment to manage the problem. She could open the windows, slip into something light and comfortable and text the super one more time about yet another problem.
Slipping out of her formalwear took priority. She walked into her bedroom and barley managed with the help of the light that was coming through the hallway to look for something to wear. She settled on the first item she managed to pull out of her dresser, a blue cotton strappy nightdress that she hadn’t worn in ages. She decided to put it on until the apartment cooled down a bit and proceeded to open the one window in her bedroom and the two windows in her living room. Then she marched towards the kitchen, turned the electric kettle on so she could make herself some tea and grabbed the phone that was sitting on the kitchen counter. First, she needed to text the super about the problems in her flat, old and new. Second, she needed to reply to some of the texts she received while she was working. One of those messages came from Alec who assured her once more that he would take full responsibility if anything wrong happened to the people he tried to talk to. She decided that it was better to call him than to send him a message, but there was no answer when she called and she was immediately directed to voice mail. She eventually settled on leaving him a voice message and thought that it might be better to postpone discussing the matter at hand to next day.
“Alec, I tried calling you, but I guess you’re too busy. Please call me back when you get this.”
Lesly directed her attention to the electric kettle next, but something around her did not feel right. She felt like she was being watched. Her ears picked the faint sound of someone breathing. She turned around and she found a stranger person, dressed in black from head to toe, standing in her living room. His face was covered with a ski mask and the only thing visible about him was the cold gaze he gave her as he menacingly stood there.
A new nightmare was about to begin.