The coffee maker brewed so slowly that Abby debated skipping the cups altogether. Even though her coffee habit was still relatively new, she had hardly slept a wink last night and needed the extra boost. And her boss? Charles Piper would fire her on the spot if she didn’t have a fresh cup of coffee on his desk when he arrived; he told her as much during her interview. No, she would stand there patiently, shifting the heavy stack of folders until the cursed machine finished.
Finally, the machine puffed a pathetic jet of steam and went silent. Shifting the folders back into her left arm, she grabbed the carafe and sloshed the life-giving liquid into two mugs and jammed it back onto the warming plate. Gripping both mugs in her hand, she walked as quick as her heels and sloshing coffee would allow, making it into Piper’s office only seconds before the man himself darkened the doorway.
“Good timing,” he muttered as he walked to his desk. He hastily grabbed a mug from her hand, almost causing her to drop the second. The folders in her other arm shifted and a couple slid of the stack. Luckily they remained closed as they fell, but even then Abby had to put her mug down before recovering the folders. Standing back up, she replaced the folders on top of the stack and began to heave them back onto her arm but paused to stifle a yawn. Piper watched her from over the rim of his mug, not bothering to lend assistance to his struggling secretary. “Are those the files I asked you to pull out for review?”
“Yes, Mr. Piper, all but one. The file for Roseanne Gonzalez is missing. I’m hoping to search the files nearby in hopes that it had just been misplaced. If your three o’clock meeting runs as planned I should have a few minutes afterward to look.”
He nodded as he took his seat behind his massive wooden desk. Abby waited for his morning instructions, sipping her coffee to check the temperature. Piper didn’t seem to mind that the coffee was still hot; he drank down mouthfuls and handed her the empty mug. Quickly setting her own mug on the desk, she grabbed the empty cup and set it next to hers. Piper reached for the files and Abby awkwardly handed them over the desk. “Another cup, if you please Abigail.” She grabbed the cups and turned to head back to the kitchen, but her boss continued speaking. “Hughes’s new secretary starts today; please see that she learns the ropes as soon as possible.” Abby nodded and exited the office. Once back in the kitchen, she found that her fresh pot of coffee was already gone, the remnants of it bubbling in the uneven heat from the hot plate.
“Perhaps you should have a coffee maker on your desk.” Zach spoke around a mouthful of a BLT sandwich. As he chewed, he dipped a pair of fries into a mound of ketchup. Abby frowned and took a bite of her Caesar salad. Ketchup was on the top of her “Most Hated Foods” list. The BLT she could handle, but with a wedding in her future, she was keeping an eye on her figure. She sipped her ice water and looked away as Zach stuffed another ketchup-covered pair of fries into his mouth.
“Believe me, I’ve thought about it.” She took another bite and shoved it to the side of her mouth before continuing. “I don’t have enough space as it is, though. Maybe Rhonda should. Hughes drinks almost as much coffee as Piper, and it would give me a break from his stares. I swear every time I look in his direction he’s staring at me.” Zach gave her a confused look from across the table as she shivered and took a bite before continuing. “Rhonda is Hughes’s new secretary. She started today.”
Zach shrugged. “Office life. You think empty coffee pots are annoying at a law firm? Try working at a newspaper office. Journalists breathe coffee. We have five coffee pots in just the main kitchen. Next to every copy machine are two more. There’s a rumor going around about the newest ground floor tenant being a coffee shop. If it’s true, they wouldn’t even have to open to the public because the rest of the building would keep them in business.”
Abby smiled as she watched Zach stuff the last quarter of his sandwich in his mouth. She quickly finished up her salad and washed it down with a generous helping of water as Zach paid the bill. A minute later they walked hand in hand down the street towards the law firm.
As the rounded the corner three blocks down from where they started, they froze. The law firm was still a block away, but the road and the parking lot adjacent to the building were jammed with police cars and fire trucks, all with their lights flashing. Abby’s co-workers milled around. Some stood and watched the officials moving about, others sat and talked in shaded doorways of nearby businesses. Abby saw Mr. Parker’s secretary disappearing into a pastry shop. Knowing her, she’d buy one of everything in the display case, and she wouldn’t have anything left to share.
“Abigail!” Piper’s voice rose above the crowd. She did her best to repress a sigh, but it came out anyway.
“I bet he wants some more coffee,” Zach joked, but Abby saw more truth than humor in his words and said nothing. “I won’t keep you. See you when you get home.” Zach kissed her cheek and disappeared around the corner.
Abby picked her way through the crowd. Piper was chatting with a police officer and two firemen when she joined the group. Hughes and Parker were there, but neither was paying attention to the conversation. Hughes watched her approach as he read though an e-mail on his tablet, and Parker was playing Candy Crush on his phone.
“-probably a false alarm, but we need to double check everything before we give the all clear,” one fireman was saying to Piper.
“Well how long is this going to take?” Piper asked.
“We’re working as fast as we can, Mr. Piper, but we can’t get sloppy when the city’s best law firm gets a bomb threat.” The police officer winked at Piper. She’s definitely on his payroll, Abby thought to herself.
“Did you just say bomb threat?” Abby interrupted their conversation. It took her a second to fully register what the officer said, and then panic set in. “When? From who?” she blurted out after the officer nodded her head.
“Just after 12:30, ma’am,” the officer responded. Abby had left to meet Zach only a few minutes before the threat came in. “We don’t know who just yet, but we’ll find ‘em. Let us know if you find out anything.” The officer chatted with the firemen as they walked toward the building. Abby could fell the blood draining away from her face. Piper stared at her as he lit a cigar. “Don’t worry,” he told her, smoke drifting from his mouth as he spoke. “This isn’t our first threat, and it certainly won’t be the last. We’re lawyers, the most hated people around.” He put the cigar back in his mouth and smiled around it. “I sure would love a cup of coffee right about now.”
“Everything ok?” Zach picked up after the first ring.
“Yeah. No. I don’t know.” Abby’s voice was low and shaky. “The office received a bomb threat. A bomb threat, Zach! Why do I feel like this isn’t a coincidence?” She leaned against the wall in the pastry shop, hiding behind a huge potted plant. Through the leaves she could see Parker’s secretary sitting at a small bistro table cramming sweets into her mouth.
There was a pause on the other line before Zach replied, “I’ve already put out some feelers here at the office. I’m sure I’ll know who the culprits are by the end of the week. No worries.”
“Abby, don’t worry about it. It has to be a coincidence, there is no other explanation.”
“What if someone is planning something and they are giving us a warning? Maybe we should go to the police?”
“Abigail, your large drip and small mocha are ready at the bar!” The barista’s chipper voice startled Abby from her moment of panic. Zach laughed over the phone. “He really did want coffee, didn’t he?”
Abby rolled her eyes as she retrieved the coffees from the bar and set them down on a nearby table. She grabbed lids and coffee collars and added them to the cups. “Maybe we should give the file another look? Maybe there is a clue in there somewhere.”
“I deleted it last night, Abs.”
“Are you sure this time? You supposedly deleted it the night before and it reappeared.”
Zach sighed loudly into the phone. “Yes Abby, I even watched the progress bar as the trash bin emptied.”
“Did you check back in your work files? Maybe your trash bin is emptying incorrectly and dumping things back where they came from.” Abby knew she was trying Zach’s patience as he sighed loudly into the phone, but she could hear the click of his mouse as he navigated through his computer. “Just humor me, alright?” Zach mumbled a reply and continued his search.
Abby had taken a seat at a table right next to the front window. She sipped her mocha and peered around the lettering on the glass, watching the crowd moving around outside. She could see Piper checking his watch and glancing in her direction. Minutes passed while Zach mumbled as he searched.
“Find it yet?” She was beginning to worry about her absence. Piper would not be happy with the delay as it was.
“Nope, because I deleted it, remember?” He paused before continuing. “Oh wait, that’s weird.”
“It’s back in my work files. This file seems to have a mind of its own.”
Abby shook her head, confused. “Is this normal?”
“Well, it’s never happened to me before, but I really don’t know how random, undeletable files depicting a future, horrific event appear on one’s computer. Alright, I’ve got the file open, what am I looking for exactly?”
“I don’t know, a name? A motive? An inaccuracy that might help prove that the file is fake? Anything!”
“Abby, this file is huge, just scrolling down I can see more items that weren’t there yesterday.”
Abby raised her face to the ceiling and muttered in disbelief while Zach searched through the new items.
“Ok,” he said after a few minutes, “I’m seeing information about Hughes, the Christmas party, and a book Parker wrote. Oh, here’s one mentioning the death toll sitting at one confirmed, with three still missing, but nothing about a bomb threat. Huh, it was written by that fool two cubicles down; knowing him he pulled his information out of thin air.”
“C’mon, Zach. Focus for just a minute, would you? Is there anything notable about the article other than it was written by a co-worker you don’t like?”
“Nope. Nothing in the file mentions a bomb threat.”
“It’s just a coincidence, Abby.”
“But what if it’s not?”
Zach groaned in frustration.
“Haven’t you even considered that this info is real?”
“No! And before you ask why, I’ll just say that only a crazy person would take this seriously!”
“So now I’m crazy?”
Zach mumbled into the phone, knowing better than to answer the question.
“Are you really questioning my mental state? Why?”
“Because you were already testing the waters of the River of Insanity and I didn’t want to inspire a swan dive?”
“Zach!” Abby leaned forward and buried her face in her arm atop the table.
“Abby, there is nothing to worry about.” He enunciated each word. “I’ll know who is doing this soon, and I’ll do everything in my power to make sure they don’t have a job at the newspaper anymore.”
Abby shook her head in resignation and sighed. “Ok,” she said, “I better get back to Piper; his coffee is getting cold.”
“Alright then. See you when you get home.”
“Yeah, see you then,” she said as she stood to leave. “You should put that file in the trash again, and make extra sure it gets deleted this time.”
“Already on it, trash is emptying as we speak.”
“Good. See you tonight.”
“Oh, and Zach?”
“I’m not crazy.”
The phone beeped as Abby ended the call. Angrily, Zach tore open the bottom drawer of his desk and dropped his phone into it before slamming it shut and watching as his trash file emptied.