Rachel got halfway through planning her day when it dawned on her that she had parked her car downtown for her date with Steve. “Great. Just great,” she muttered out loud. In the process of looking for the telephone, she lost her temper with the mess and decided to clean the office.
It took her the better part of an hour. Other than the hard drive, nothing seemed to be missing. Except for the folder that Viktor took, she reflected angrily. Of all the things for him to do when she had just started to trust him a little. Well, that was a lie; she trusted him a lot, almost in spite of herself. The question remained why he’d take the file.
She sat down on the couch, finally finished. She wondered if she had time to vacuum the carpet but decided to call a cab to go pick up her car. She needed to get out for a while, if nothing else.
If the cabbie thought it odd that she asked to be taken downtown to a parked car, he gave no sign. Maybe lots of people left their cars behind on dates like she had. She paid him and walked over to the driver’s side and looked around before getting in. No one loitered nearby and she decided she could afford to pretend nothing was wrong.
She winced at the price the attendant of the garage charged her, but paid it and pulled into traffic to navigate her way home. She pulled up at a light and looked to her left. A red Audi pulled up next to her, leaning over the line into the crosswalk as though impatient to be held back. She glanced at the driver.
Mrs. Dawson checked her reflection in the rearview mirror, oblivious to Rachel’s shocked gaze.
Rachel looked back at the traffic signal before the woman next to her could feel her staring. When the light turned green, Rachel hung back and pulled in behind the sleek sports car, keeping enough distance that it wasn’t obvious she was following. The streets started to look familiar and Rachel guessed where they were headed. Sure enough, they pulled up in front of Mario’s. Rachel went a few cars passed it this time, to avoid the house with its unknown watcher, and parked.
The same man admitted Mrs. Dawson, again checking the street before closing the door. Rachel peered back to the second floor window she’d seen the woman watching from the last time, but the curtains were still. She didn’t dare get out and tip the woman off that she was back again, and settled in to wait.
This time, Mrs. Dawson appeared after only maybe twenty minutes, a handbag hung from her left arm. Rachel blinked. She’d’ve sworn the woman had gone inside with nothing. She studied the handbag as Mrs. Dawson strode to her Audi and realized that the bag didn’t match the outfit. It was a plush, thick black leather, while Mrs. Dawson’s outfit was a royal blue dress with matching shoes. She opened her door and set the purse gently on the passenger seat before getting in. As she pulled into traffic, Rachel pulled in behind her, wondering about that purse.
This time, Mrs. Dawson’s course meandered through town and finally fetched up at home. As she pulled into her driveway, Rachel somewhat regretfully continued on, pointing her own car toward her office. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to leave Mrs. Dawson, but rather that now she had nothing clear-cut to occupy her attention.
Her mind stubbornly refused to let the issue of Viktor and the file go. Why would he take her file after making such a show of protecting her?
Then her stomach clenched and it was a good thing she was stopped at a traffic light. Steve had been killed, she assumed by Viktor, but that wasn’t what stopped her cold. She flashed instead on the gun near Steve’s hand. A semi-automatic pistol, it wasn’t a small revolver someone would purchase for “home protection.” It was a serious weapon, the kind someone carried when they knew how to use it. Someone like Viktor, say.
In fact, she bet Viktor knew what model the pistol was. Not for the first time, she wished she had a phone number for her elusive Russian. As she pulled into her parking spot behind the building she saw him waiting for her, leaning against the wall next to the back door with his foot cocked against the bricks behind him.
“Viktor!” she exclaimed as she stood away from her car.
“Raych,” he responded laconically.
“Where the hell is my file, Viktor?” she demanded, stalking up to him with her keys in her fist.
“Did you lock your car?” he asked instead.
“What?” she shot back, annoyed. “Of course I did.”
“Never can be too careful,” he murmured and turned to allow her to pass by into the building. “After you.”
She almost stopped and repeated her question but something in his manner made her step inside the building. She could hear him behind her, nearly silent steps and soft breathing, like some kind of ghost.
She didn’t speak until they arrived at her office and she shut the door behind them. She rounded on him and threw her keys on the desk. “Now where is my file?”
He studied her without speaking right away. “Have you had any other contacts from the boy?” he asked.
“What? No! No, I haven’t figured out any of this stuff yet! Why did you take my file, Viktor?”
“I’m trying to find your hard drive,” he said.
It took her a moment to parse what he said and then her mouth fell open. “How?”
He shrugged and turned to sit on her couch. “Sit down, Raych. Let’s talk.”
“Let’s talk?” she echoed. “Just like that?”
He laughed, startling her. “Yes, Raych. Sit down.”
She sat in her desk chair, just to be contrary. He watched her do it without saying anything.
“Okay. Now give!” she snapped. “Where is my file, and how can you find my hard drive?”