Coffee: Gabrielle Chapter 5

I came home after the revision meeting with the new lead for The Tea to find a bouquet of lilies on my doorstep from Emory. My heart skipped a beat when I saw the beautiful arrangement and read the card she sent with them. I hadn’t heard a word from Emory since the night of our first date and that was two weeks ago. The card she sent said the flowers were meant to be an apology for the offense. I took the beautiful bouquet inside with me and put the flowers on my coffee table along with the mail that had built up in my mailbox over the past few days. I admit, that night we had was amazing, and it was all I could think about for days after, but the warm remembrance wore off after a week of radio silence. If she thought it would be that easy to get me to forgive her for tossing me to the side without so much as a phone call she had another thing coming.  

I ripped open the bag of take-out I had picked up from the Chinese restaurant in the strip mall down the street and started picking at my take. With an eggroll hanging from my mouth I stood in the middle of the living room undressing and listening to my voicemail. There was a call from my mom asking what menu I wanted to serve my guests at the party she was planning for me, and one from Amanda wanting me to confirm our upcoming lunch date. I hit the red call end button on my phone, tossed it onto the couch, and grabbed the rest of my dinner from the table. When I first moved into the two-bedroom two bath apartment a few years ago, one of the first things I did was convert the guest room into to a painting studio. The floor to ceiling windows, built-in bookshelves and vaulted ceilings made it a great space to work in and is also my favorite place to be when I’m home. I polished off the carton of lo mien and sat the remainder of my dinner to the side to begin working on my newest project tentatively named Milo, an abstract of the eye of a cat I had seen multiple times outside of my building.  

I stood in nothing but my panties with smears of red, orange, and yellow acrylic paint on my body when I finally heard my cellphone ringing in the other room. “Who could be calling me at this time of night.” I said to myself as I ran down the hall to catch the phone before the ringing stopped. As soon as I walked into the living room I was blinded by the morning light coming in through the window. I had been so focused on working with Milo that I’d forgotten to close the blinds the night before. “Shit! It’s 8 a.m.” I said as I checked to see who had broken me out of my spell. I should’ve have been at the studio four hours ago.   

“Gabrielle, this is Amanda. Your script rewrites are due. Should I send an assistant to your office pick them up?” She asked. She was using her professional voice, which was our signal to each other that we weren’t on the line by ourselves. I look at the caller id again and realize that she was calling me from one of the executive offices and the echo on the line gave away that she had me on speakerphone. Early on, Amanda had called me from every office phone on the executive level so that I could program them to my cellphone and avoid getting caught up. The phone she was calling me from now is coming from Michelle’s desk and I’m sure Randall is listening too.  

From the messages in my phone I knew that Amanda knew that I was not in the office and this was her way of covering my ass.  

“Yes, you can send someone around.” I replied. 

“So, you are in your office then?” I heard someone ask in the background, certain by the smugness in her voice that it was Michelle. 

“I’m actually not in the office but my notes are ready to pick up, I dropped them off last night after the table read.” I said as I sat down at my computer to send some old notes to my work printer. I had completely forgotten to do the ones they were calling me about but I’ll be damned if I admit that to Michelle. Sending these would buy me some time to work on the actual notes they need and I can just blame the mix up on technology.  

“Well if you aren’t in your office where exactly are you?” Michelle asked, not willing to leave well enough alone. “This is not the type of behavior we expect to see out of our future Producer. If we can’t count on you to be where you’re supposed to be then we don’t prefer to count on you.” 

“Actually, I’m out doing field research on an idea I’ve been working on for next season’s line up. Do you remember that story that was in the news a while back about the man who had been breaking into women’s houses at night to watch them sleep?” Elgin Scribener?” She asked. “Yeah, what about him?” 

“Well then you remember he’s the man responsible for helping the Houston Police Department catch the Southside Slasher last summer. I’m on my way to the prison to go meet with him about possibly getting the rights to his story. I was thinking about turning that into a series of 20 or so episodes to be aired nightly in one-hour segments. I figure it’ll be a good for ratings in October.” I replied. 

“This is the first I’m hearing of you taking the initiative on anything around here and I’d have to admit I’d be impressed if you can manage to secure the story. When should I expect to see something come across my desk about it? Maybe I should come along with you to make sure you don’t let it get away from you.” She said snidely.  

“No, Michelle, I think Gabrielle can handle it on her own, besides I have some things I need you to keep an eye on here in the office. Randall interjected.  

I hadn’t really planned to pitch the idea just yet as I was still talking with Elgin’s lawyers trying to get access to even go and talk to him at the prison. But there’s no way I’m about to let on to Michelle what I was really doing. Especially since she seemed to have had it out for me since the first day we met two weeks ago. She had been brought in as an un biased executive producer from our sister company in Atlanta. Tasked with evaluating my readiness to be promoted to Producer, she hadn’t made any attempts at disguising her contempt for having to come to Houston or be responsible for my success in stepping into the new role. I’d reluctantly accepted the offer after days of being pressured into it by my parents. They’d pulled out the big guns this time and threated to stop paying half the rent on my condo if I turned down the offer. 

 

Thankful for the rescue from Randall, I told them both I would call when I had more details and that I’d be in the office later in the day. Almost immediately after I ended the call my phone chirped again with another text from Amanda. What a bitch! The text read. Amanda and I sent a few messages back and forth before I plugged my phone into the charger and threw it on the bed. I turned to scan my closet for something to wear for the day. With the way Michelle has been riding me it looks like I’ll be working another long day. I decided on blue jeans, a teal camisole and a navy blazer for today’s adventures. Too afraid of what would happen if I took a warm shower after staying up all night I decided to go for a quick cold water hose off to get the paint off of myself. Once dressed, I pulled my hair into a ponytail and applied some eyeliner and concealer under my eyes before I darted out of the door to head to Elgin’s lawyer’s office.  

The offices of Sullivan, Petterson, and Morris are in the heart of Downtown Houston and there was no way I was about to try to fight my way through rush hour traffic, only to pay an arm and a leg to park so I decided to take the bus. This way I could use the time actually doing the rewrites I’m sure Michelle is going to be riding my ass about as soon as I walk into the office later today. The metro pulled up on time for a change and I was all too happy to get out of the already sticky air. The bus is crowded and there’s a homeless man asleep on the back row. My options for a seat are between a mother feeding her backpack carrying daughter hard boiled eggs and woman who smelled as if she had put on every fragrance she owned. All of the smells bring on a bout of nausea and I regret my decision to leave my car home. It’s too late to change my mind as the bus is pulling off from the stop, and the ride into the city won’t take too long so I settle in next to the overly scented woman and pulled out my laptop to start working. 

Fifteen minutes later I arrived at my stop just as I hit send on the rewrites I had been working on. I took out my cell as I stepped off the bus and put in a call to Walter Morris, Elgin Scribener’s lawyer. His assistant answered on the third ring same as every other time I have called his office.  

“Good Morning David, Gabrielle Easton calling for Walter Morris.”  

“Good Morning Ms. Easton, Mr. Morris is in a meeting. Can I take a message?”  

“Yes David, as a matter of fact you can. You can let him know that he can keep trying to avoid me but that I am going to keep calling and showing up until he gives me an answer. I’m on my way to your offices now. Would you like me to pick something up for you on my way in?” I asked David who is now chuckling on the other end of the phone.  

I have been calling Walter’s office and sometimes camping out in the lobby of his lush reception every week for the last six months trying to get him to take a meeting with me about speaking to his client. All I wanted him to do was get his client to agree to one meeting with me about selling the rights to his story. I’ve called so much and I’ve been by so often that his assistant David and I are now on first name basis with each other. 

“Well Ms. Easton if you are stopping by a coffee shop I wouldn’t say no to a cup. I will give Mr. Morris your message and I’ll see you in a few minutes.” He replied before we hung up.   

The 20-story black glass building that housed Walter’s office gave off the kind of cold feeling you’d normally associate with a lawyers’ presence. I walked into the first-floor lobby careful not to scuff the freshly waxed floors, past the unattended welcoming desk to the bank of elevators just behind it.  The statuesque brunette in front of me has already pressed the call button so I check my messages while we wait on the car to arrive. If I had timed this right I would be walking off the elevators at the same time that Walter would be walking out of the conference room just to the right of the elevator bank. I had learned his schedule, thanks to little hints that David had been throwing my way and practically stalking the man trying to get him to agree to just one meeting.  I stepped on the elevator and pressed the button for the 16th floor, still scrolling through my phone looking for the file I had been keeping on Walter. I didn’t want to use the information I had gathered on him but the time for trying to get this story the honest way has passed.  

I step off the elevators and through the glass doors with Sullivan, Petterson, and Morris etched into them and I am immediately greeted by David’s smiling face. He stood from his desk with his arms outstretch like and impatient child. “Ohh gimme gimme gimme.” He said while reaching for the coffee I had brought for him.  

Handing him the cup I asked what direction Walter would be coming from today. “Well, you see that lady over there acting like she’s reading that magazine. That’s Patricia Scribener, Elgin’s wife as of last week, and she’s here to meet with him immediately after they’re done in there.”  

My eyes grew large at the words I was hearing. The universe, with David’s help, had handed me the answer to my prayers and she was sitting in the corner of this very office. There’s no way I’m leaving this office today without the permission I need to meet with Elgin.   

“It seems she got a call from someone saying there was an update on her new husband’s case and she needed to come down right away to discuss it.” He added. There was no way David was supposed to be telling me any of this and I was grateful that he was.  

“Oh David I owe you one for this.” I whispered excitedly. “How long do they have left in the meeting?” 

“About 20 minutes give or take so if you’re gonna make your move you’d better stop singing my praises and get over there.”  

“Thank you, Thank you David .” I mouthed as I backed away from the desk.  

I crossed the lobby to take a seat directly in front of the woman. Her prematurely gray hair was pulled back in a chignon that made my head hurt to look at. She was smartly dressed in black slacks and a white dress shirt and looked to be in her late 30’s. She wasn’t knock dead gorgeous but she was pretty enough to have found a man of better caliber than Elgin, solely going off of appearances. Everything about her seemed modest except for the expensive looking shoes she wore that looked too new against the rest of her outfit. “I love those shoes.” I said finally breaking the silence. The woman barely looked up over the top of the same magazine page she had been staring at since I sat down. “Thanks.” She said just above a whisper. Usually complimenting a woman on her shoes would yield better results than a one-word answer. Obviously, fashion was not a starter for this woman so I sat trying to figure out another way in. Before I got the chance to try again with the woman, the conference room doors opened and men dressed in expensive custom suits filed out of the room. Walter was the last to exit and it was no surprise that he didn’t seem happy to see me.  

“Patricia, it’s so good to see you. I do hope you weren’t disturbed in my absence.” He said as he gave me a nasty look while shaking the woman’s hand.  “No, not at all.” She replied, her body language seemed to change as she stood waiting for further direction from him.  

“Why don’t we step into my office and discuss how I can help you today.” He said as he guided her away from me down the hall to his office. He made sure to close the heavy oak door firmly behind him once they entered. “Shit!” I said as I snatched my bag from the floor. I was hoping I would have had the chance to talk to her before Walter could poison her ear against me. Now that he’d seen me with her I know today is not going to be the day he will agree to meet with me, at the same time I’d blown my chance to confront him with the file I had on him.  

“Maybe next time.” I said to David as I pressed the elevator call button. “I may as well head back into the office because there was nothing left to accomplish here today.”  

“I’m sorry boo. You’ll get em’ next time.” He replied as I stepped into the waiting car.  

Back out on the street my stomach started protesting the thought I’d had to immediately get back on the bus and go to the office. If there’s one thing I can say about Houston is there is no shortage of good food and good restaurants. I check the street before crossing to the bar whose window promised the best burgers and cold drinks were just inside. I sat myself at the bar that ran beneath the window facing the building I had just left. My server came over and took my drink order after delivering a menu. I haven’t gone running in days and I knew I was going to regret the decision later but that didn’t stop me from ordering the double burger and large fry when she returned with my Coke. I was deep into the massive burger the server had delivered when I saw Patricia walk out of the doors across the street. I was about to attempt to get her attention when Walter exited the office right behind her. Once out on the street he grabbed her hand and pulled her into a kiss. I almost choked on the fry I had been chewing witnessing Walter cheat on his very pregnant wife with the wife of the man he had been keeping me from. I took out my cellphone in time to snap a picture of the two wrapped in each other’s arms and I signaled for the check.  

I was still thinking about what I had witnessed outside of Walter’s office when I made it back to my apartment to pick up my car. That man has some big balls to be kissing on his side piece on the streets of Downtown Houston in broad daylight where anybody could see him. Instead of going inside I took my car keys from my bag and hit the alarm button to unlock my silver sedan. With it still being early in the day, and not wanting to show up too early and give away that I wasn’t at the prison like I’d said, I decided to take the scenic route in to the office. The picture I now have of Walter would be added to the file I planned to use to persuade him to speak to his client and get me the rights to his story. I just had to get to my computer at work to set it all up.  

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