What happened next still cracks me up.
Patty/Patsy and I held a good long staring contest completely ignoring Ricky, who, taking advantage of hosting a possible cat fight ran to the kitchen. I know that because he emerged moments later with a bottle of burgundy and three heavy-leaded Mexican wine glasses. There was an unlit joint sticking out of his mouth and a shit-eating grin in his beady brown eyes. It was the joint that distracted me.
“Uh,” I said.
“Oh, Ricky, we’re kinda working here,” said Patty and then looked my way. “Aren’t we?”
“Well,” I shrugged, “a glass of wine might be nice.”
“It’s Christmas!” said Ricky settling onto the couch. Patty joined him. I took the chair opposite, dragging it up to a dinged coffee table.
The trick for me was to get through the next hour without letting Patty know I’d pilfered her filing cabinet so when she asked me what I was doing here, I said Abigail had listed this address in her Arborgate application and since I’d been working here I’d come over to see… “Whatever there was to see. It sort of feels like I’m paying my respects somehow,” She nodded, swallowing wine with a thirsty gulp. I wondered briefly where she had spent the afternoon.
“How did you like our office here?” she asked, stretching back against the leather cushions, letting herself slide down against the smooth surface. Not leather, naugahyde.
“Seems friendly.” I turned to Ricky. “Did you know Abigail?” I asked, picturing them on the couch watching Mary Tyler Moore on a Saturday night.
He nodded enthusiastically, but that might have been caused by his attempt to hold in a mouthful of smoke. He flattened his lips and let it escape. When he leaned in my direction, arm extended, I took the joint and held it, letting the damp end dry a bit before helping myself to a polite toke.
“Nice lady,” he said and stopped, catching a meaningful look from Patty. If it was supposed to shut him up, it worked. If it wasn’t, well, Ricky wasn’t saying more about Abigail.
“Are you coming back tomorrow?” asked Patty.
“I’m supposed to. There’s a lot of file---office stuff to do. You have a lot of move-ins for January?”
“We do.” She took the joint and inhaled.
We sat quietly for another round of passing and sipping. Finally, I asked, “What were you doing at Arborgate, anyway?”
“Oh, just shopping the complex.”
“Who asked you to do that?”
“Barbara. She’s afraid Judith’s going to get her job.”
“Judith wouldn’t live here on a bet,” I said. Neither would I if it came to that.
She flushed. “I believe you, but Barbara thinks this place is great.”
“It is great,” said Ricky. “It’s got a pool and lots of women. It’s close to 85.”
I ignored him. “Are you afraid of losing your job?”
“No,” said Patty. “But if I do I’m moving to Buckhead.”
We were at an impasse. I’d kept my secret but I had a feeling she had kept her own. What her secrets were I don’t know, but they had to do with Abigail. Without revealing that I’d seen the her files I didn’t see how I could learn what her interest was in Abigail. Unless –
“Did you know Abigail?”
“No!” she coughed a lunger of smoke.
“Then why were you so interested in her apartment?”