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Dear Mr Burnham
Carly Baker dragged herself out of bed. She wished she could fall back asleep, but she had to work. She pulled herself up again and started for the wardrobe. The doors flew open, and Carly scanned her wardrobe. She fingered a yellow blouse and pulled it out. A brown, brick-like stain nagged at her. Blood. She shivered as the memory ate its way out of her.
“We’ve followed every procedure in the book, Ms. Baker,” Mr. Schmidt said, stepping over a stray nail. “Watch your feet, ma’am. No telling what sort of nails and screws my boys’ll leave around.”
“Quite alright, John. I’m used to construction sites. It’s a part of my job, you know.” Carly said, smiling.
“Ms. Baker, would you mind holding this?” Schmidt offered Carly his wallet and cellphone. “I just a need free hand for a second.”
“Not at all, John. Take your time.” Carly put John’s cell phone and wallet in her pocket.
Schmidt stopped to shake Carly’s hand. “Thank you for everything, Ms. Spokeswoman. Without you, hell, these towers might’ve died in the architectural council. Excuse me, I have a bit of business to tend to.”
“Whatever you need to do, John. You’ve done a wonderful job with these towers. Camden’s less fortunate owe you a great deal.”
Schmidt grinned. “I’m just happy I can help and put food on family’s plate at the same time. Now please, excuse me. I’m keeping the mayor waiting, and that’s always a bad idea.”
He wasn’t kidding. If you annoyed Mayor Anderson, you’d pay the price. Organized crime tried to take his life once in Camden, and he’d responded with the largest assault against crime the city had ever seen. Rounded up a thousand criminals. Carly stepped away, then slapped her pockets. “John! I forgot to give you these!” She jogged back to Schmidt, cell phone and wallet outstretched.
Schmidt froze in his spot, waiting for Carly to reach him. On the fifteenth floor, Jack Burnham installed windows. His tape measure always flirted with the edge of his platform. Jack looked down and saw the mayor right below him, talking to his boss, Schmidt. Jack whistled a bit, then placed his middle finger behind his thumb and flicked the tape measure off the side. It teetered for a moment, then dropped. Jack chuckled. Have a nice ride down, fella. Say hello to the mayor for me, will ya? Billy, on the tenth floor, looked up in amazement as the tape measure missed him by inches, striking the edge Billy’s platform and changing its course by just a few inches.
Carly never registered the tape measure, or its impact on Schmidt’s head. All she saw was the blood, as it splattered the yellow blouse near her midriff. Schmidt slumped. The mayor screamed. Carly looked up, and she saw a man on the fifteenth with golden hair and a slender build looking down at her, but she couldn’t see anything else. She looked down and saw Schmidt, head impaled with tape measure, lying in a pool of blood that made Carly sick. God. Why did these sorts of things always happen to her?
Carly shook her head. Schmidt was a good man, one of the few in Camden. She ran a finger along the bloodstain. They never found out who did it. She shuddered. As crazy as it sounded, Carly couldn’t believe it accidental, like the police said. How could somebody accidentally knock a tape measure off the fifteenth story of a building under construction, killing the man next to the most controversial mayor Camden ever saw?
She thrust the blouse back into the closet. Too many memories, and a bloodstain never gave a good impression. Stop thinking about it. Just pick a new shirt. She shut her eyes and pulled the first thing out of the closet she could find. The blazer snagged on the hanger and tore. Carly sighed. Of course it would. God knew she tore too many blazers already. Still, that one time at the playground had to win for worst suit tear of all time.
“Right this way, Ms. Baker. We think you’ll like the name we decided to give it. Quite a good surprise, Ms. Baker. Mind your step, please.” Alan Whittaker, the elementary school principal, had a habit of droning on. To Carly, Mr. Whittaker might as well have never warned her. Her toe had a rough meeting with the curb, and her suit jacket whimpered as the tree branch dug into the jacket’s side. As Carly fell, her jacket tore in half, and she fell.
An arm caught her, helping her up. “Ms. Baker, are you alright? Oh, my God, your jacket. Here, let me help you.” The man helped her out of her jacket. The blouse revealed a little in the light, and when the man saw, he covered his eyes. Carly rolled hers and chuckled.
“Here, please, have my jacket,” he said. He took off the jacket and extended it to Carly, all with the use of only one arm. Impressive.
“Well, thank you. I don’t believe we’ve met.” Carly pulled on the jacket. It fit alright, good enough for the announcement, at least.
The man flung his hand out. “Jack Burnham, ma’am.”
“Carly Baker,” Carly said, meeting Jack’s hand. “Though, I suppose you already knew that. What do you do, Jack?”
“I’m a reporter, Ms. Baker. I report the news that’s fit to print, or the news my boss sees fit to print. Something like that.”
“Something like that, Mr. Burnham. Something like that.”
“We should move, Ms. Baker. Don’t want to be late for your big unveil.”
Carly blinked, then snapped her head away, “Yes, yes, of course. Walk with me, Mr. Burnham. I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.”
“Well, if you insist, I suppose I could.” Jack smiled. Jack put his arm around Carly’s waist and made sure she didn’t tear a second jacket. The walk took only a minute, and that minute paid for itself.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Whittaker said. “I’m pleased to welcome our staff, and especially Carly Baker, to commemorate one of our finest staff members. And I’m especially happy to give a little back to our children. God, I wish I’d had a place like this growing up. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Joseph A. Baker Recreational Park.”
Carly smiled. What a day. She put the shirt back. She needed to clear her head. She stepped over to fridge. Coffee. Not in the fridge, definitely not in the fridge. She grabbed the packet of ground coffee beans and poured it into the coffee machine. Christ, forgot the filter again. Jesus, sometimes she drove herself insane. Oh well, didn’t matter. She washed out the coffee machine and tried again, this time with a filter. Cup, need a cup. They’re in the cupboard, of course. She grabbed one and threw it under the dispenser just as the machine started to gurgle out coffee.
She sighed with relief. She opened her fridge. God, her stomach yelled at her for something. She hadn’t eaten yesterday, that’s right. Too nervous. Ironic though, considering that she spoke at the opening of a grocery store. Carly laughed out loud. She smiled, and let the memory surface. This one she didn’t want to fight, not at all.
“Ms. Baker, would you like to say a few words?” Danny Carrick, Vice President ShopSmart Supermarkets, stepped aside.
Carly stepped up to the microphone. “Mr. Carrick, I don’t understand why people keep asking me to speak. I’m just a spokesperson!” Nobody laughed. Bad joke. Bad joke. “Anyway, I couldn’t be happier to offer Camden’s citizens a new, affordable place to shop. Open the doors, Mr. Carrick!” The crowd grumbled. Tough crowd tonight.
Danny Carrick opened the doors, and Carly stepped away from the microphone. Well, that went awfully. She could think of a million better things she could have said. She felt a nudge on her shoulder.
“Beautiful speech, Ms. Baker. Couldn’t have given a better one myself,” Jack Burnham said, sitting down next to Carly on the curb.
“Jack!” she said, wrapping her arms around him. She nestled into his embrace, then breathed into his ear, “Please, call me Carly.”
“No can do, Ms. Baker. I have better manners than that.”
Carly pushed away, then said, “Well, then I’ll just have to call you Mr. Burnham. Would you like that, Mr. Burnham? It’s much easier to call you Jack, Mr. Burnham. Couldn’t you just call me Carly, Mr. Burnham?”
Jack laughed. “Whatever makes you happy, Ms. Baker. I suppose you’ll just have to call me Mr. Burnham. But, tell you what, Ms. Baker. I like you. How about we—you and me, that is—go and get some dinner tomorrow night. My treat. Just the two of us.”
“I’d love that, Jack—Mr. Baker, I mean.”
Jack put a hand on Carly’s leg and pushed himself up. “Wonderful, Ms. Baker. Just wonderful. Well, I’ve got to go. Got business to take care of. I’ll see you tomorrow. I’ll call you.”
“I’ll answer,” Carly watched him go to his care, his golden hair fluttering over his slender build.
Carly’s doorbell rang.
Who could it be? She leaned against the peephole. Jack. It was Jack. He said he’d call, but there he was. Normally, this would annoy her, but she didn’t mind it, coming from Jack. She ruffled up the bottoms of her pajamas and looked at herself once in the mirror. She threw the door open.
“Oh, hello, Mr. Burnham.” A silenced gun leveled itself at Carly’s forehead.
“Hey, Carly. Let me in, would you? It’s so awkward doing this outside.”