"Sorry, Lara. Not today."
"C'mon, Parker. My words, your photos? We can nail that glider-riding Halloween costume if we get the word out about Suzy-Jean Watson and her trauma."
"That's Mary-Jane," he corrected me with a sour smirk, "and I don't think the public will mind waiting a week or two for a story; granted that MJ needs time to recover both physically and mentally."
I've got to give the kid credit for sticking to his guns -- after a couple more minutes of bantering it became apparent that I wouldn't be getting a soundbyte from Miss Watson. I left the hospital with my hands in the pockets of my peacoat and wandered uptown New York City for a spell despite the blistering cold. By accident (sheer accident of wandering, I tell you!) I passed by McDermott's office. On a lark a went in and swept to the information desk:
"Yeah, er'...is Ian McDermott in?"
The security guard shot me one of those looks that just oozed
'you're press, aren't you?'. He ruffled through his book and shot me a glance over the rim of his glasses:
"D'you have an appointment?"
"Well, no, but I was just wondering if I could...you know, breeze up there and...uh, shoot the...'er...breeze, as it were."
All this accompanied by descriptive hand gestures, courtesy me.
"Look Miss, you can't get upstairs without an appointment."
"Oh really? Huh, funny. I've been here many times; I was sure I didn't need an appointment to see my fiancé."
I don't know what possessed me to say it, but say it I did.
The security guard blanched for a moment, flipping through his paper stacks, "...fiancé? I wasn't told about this..." he began to look around his desktop for a number to call.
"Oh, yes. Engaged three months now!" I was glad I had worn my gold band today -- not something that McDermott would spring for, but convincing nonetheless. I continued on my roll, "are you new? I imagine you're new here. The other security guards just wave me on by this station...I imagine holding me up won't bode well for your position here."
The guard swallowed and turned pale.
"But if you insist on being mean about it," I said airily, "I'm sure my intended could cut your severence package to half of its original value..."
"Your intended what?" came a voice from behind me. From the guard's face, I could tell that I was busted. I turned and found myself face to face with Ian McDermott, probing smile arched to his lips. I froze.
The security guard chimed in, "your fiancée, Mr. McDermott. Sorry I didn't let her go up right away, I was unaware of protocol."
Ian pinioned me with an amused expression and then looked to the guard, "Quite alright, Wallace, you're new here after all." He then took me daintily by the arm and led me toward the doors, speaking loudly, "Well, Honey, it's certainly a surprise to see you down here at the office -- did you wear the underwear I bought for you last night? The black lace ones? Don't want to be underdressed for our lunchtime tryst, now do we?"
I turned as red as Jameson does on Deadline day.
After some hefty explaining (none of which made any sense to me, but Ian seemed to buy it), he took me out for lunch at an understated French bistro. I let him. He took the "joke" in stride, saying that he admired my moxie for daring to fabricate such an elaborate hoax. Conversation was polite; discretionary. We parted afterward and went our separate ways, each a bit more trusting of the other than we had been before.
But something's changed...irrevocably.
I'm powerless to stop it.
Moreover, if I could, I don't think I'd want to.