A study in professional perfection, Darcy stands before the elevator doors. Holding a supple leather bag against her tailored suit, she gently taps her right toe against the marble tile. The Italian pump makes tiny, rhythmic clicks while her beautifully chiseled features mask her agitation. It takes great restraint not to bolt for the stairs.
Darcy hopes no one notices her fidgeting. Chances are, no one does. Most people wouldn’t pay much attention to one businesswoman waiting for an elevator in a high-rise. There are a dozen offices on this floor alone, and she could have come from any one of them.
Waiting for the elevator to arrive, she allows her thoughts to drift back to the events that brought her to this point.
Earlier that day, Darcy settled in behind her desk to check her messages. There was only one, but the hair stood up on the back of her neck as she listened to the hostility pouring from the voice of her husband’s best friend. His message was brief but clear.
“I know what’s been going on and I’m not gonna let you make a fool of Pete. I plan on telling him everything, but first I want to hear what you have to say for yourself. Call me.”
Darcy rose from her chair and walked slowly over to the window. Staring out across the city, she pondered the implications. So, he knew. She really shouldn’t be surprised. She was, after all, fooling around with one of his associates. Stupid on her part, for sure, but what was done was done. Time for a little damage control.
Walking back to her phone, Darcy dialed his number from memory. When he answered, she said meekly, “Alex, it’s me. Don’t say anything, just listen. I got your message and, you’re right, we do have to talk about this. I don’t know if it will do any good, but I need to try and make you understand. I’ll be there in an hour.” She hung up before he had a chance to respond.
Darcy then called her secretary and said she’d be holed up in her office for the remainder of the day and was not to be disturbed under any circumstances. Grabbing her tote bag, she made her way down the back hall to the company lab. Luckily, it was lunchtime, and the staff was nowhere to be seen. Opening and closing various unlocked cabinets – their internal security wasn’t the finest – she soon found what she needed.
Taking the back stairs to the basement, Darcy slipped through the shadows and softly opened the maintenance manager’s door. As usual, he was leaning back in his chair and snoring to beat the band. She was able to sneak over to his tool bench and grab what she wanted without him so much as changing his rhythm.
Traffic was light and she made it to Alex’s building sooner than expected. When Darcy exited the elevator on his floor and started down the hall, she could see through the glass doors that his reception area was empty. Feeling rather charmed, she darted around the secretary’s desk and tiptoed down the short corridor to Alex’s office. The door was ajar, and he was on the phone with his back to her. She stepped in quietly and closed the door, careful not to let the latch click. Just as she was reaching into her bag, Alex turned around. He nearly dropped the receiver as he was hanging up.
“Hey! How long have you been standing there? Why’s the door shut?”
“Relax, Alex, I just got here.” Gesturing toward the door, she said, “Considering the delicate subject matter, I prefer your secretary not overhear. She wasn’t at her desk, so I just came on back. Please…I hope you don’t mind.”
The uncharacteristic softness in her demeanor seemed to throw him off a little. “Uh, no…no, it’s fine. You just startled me, that’s all.”
Darcy stood just inside the door and smoothed the side of her hair with a shaky hand. “Alex, would it be okay if I sit down? I’m a little nervous about this. I’m sure you can understand that.”
“Of course,” he said, gesturing to one of the guest chairs. “Look, Darcy…this isn’t easy for me, either. But Pete and I go back to when we were kids, and I’m just looking out for him.” Alex seemed to relax a little when she dabbed her eyes with a tissue. “I don’t want to be a hard ass about this, but something’s got to give.”
Darcy let out a heavy sigh and nodded. “You’re absolutely right. He deserves better. A lot better. I don’t know what I’ve been thinking lately. I’m coordinating a new research project that’s got me under a lot of pressure and, with all of Peter’s late meetings, we hardly see each other anymore. I guess I was looking for some way to vent my frustrations. But, believe me, Alex, I know that doesn’t justify an affair.” Dabbing her eyes again, she went on, “For what it’s worth, I’ve broken it off, and I really do want to make our marriage work. I just don’t know if that’ll be possible if you tell Peter what I’ve done. He’ll never forgive me and, in the end, he’ll be miserable, too.”
Darcy got up and walked around Alex’s desk to look out the window. Keeping her back to him, she held the bag in front of her and slipped her hand inside.
Alex came over and stood next to her. “This is a side of you I’ve never seen before. Listen, I know we’re not exactly close, but maybe I haven’t given you a fair shot. I’d like to change that.”
Smiling slightly, Darcy turned and hugged him. Just as he was releasing her, she jammed the needle deep into his neck. A slight gurgling sound was all he managed as he sank to the carpet. His stupefied look caused her smile to widen.
“Alex, Alex, Alex…I feel it’s my duty to tell you that you really should be more careful about who you trust. But don’t worry. The effects only last about an hour, and this won’t take nearly that long. Of course, if you’re still mentally in the here and now when this stuff wears off, you’ll wish you were dead. At the very least, you’ll wish you’d stayed out of my business.” She wasn’t sure he could even hear her at this point – it was an extremely powerful paralytic, after all – but she kept talking. “You know, Alex, you’re not a horrible person, and I kind of hate having to do this. But…sadly…you gave me no alternative.”
Darcy reached inside the bag once again and, this time, pulled out surgical gloves, a disposable coverall, a scalpel, and a bolt cutter. After donning the coverall and snapping on the gloves, she knelt down and thought she saw a gleam of terror in Alex’s eyes as she leaned closer to…
“DING!” The elevator doors open just as a woman’s piercing scream travels down the hall from the vicinity of Alex’s office. With a hint of a smile, Darcy enters the elevator.
Back on the main floor, she strolls to the restroom and goes in, locking the door behind her. Lucky for her, Alex was old-school enough to use a paper calendar. From inside her bag, she draws out the page that has her name scribbled on it, crumples it up, and tosses it into the toilet. The coverall and implements of destruction are stowed inside a large zip-lock baggie that she’ll dump on the way back to work, but there are a few other items she decides to discard before leaving the building. Reaching back into her bag, Darcy pulls out a second baggie, mentally inventorying the contents as she drops each item into the toilet. She hits the flush lever and purses her lips as she watches eight fingers, two thumbs, two eyeballs, one tongue, and one nose swirl swiftly out of sight.
That last souvenir wasn’t particularly necessary, but she simply couldn’t resist. Including it with all the others gives her a great deal of satisfaction. There are those who would disagree with her assessment, but Darcy doesn’t consider herself a monster. No, not at all. If anything, she’s a public servant. Because of her diligence in leaving no stone unturned, Alex will not be sticking his nose into anyone else’s business ever again.