Cordel stared at the closed door and looked at his watch. He was on time, but Arlyn wasn’t answering. After the fuss she had made the day before about him needing to be at her apartment at their scheduled time, without compromising once with his schedule, and now she wasn’t opening the door.
“Arlyn, come on,” he said through the door. “I’m here on time, even though I had to leave my breakfast early. I even brought coffee. Well, I had my driver get coffee, but the fact is, I’m here. I know you’re mad, but let’s be professional. Open the door.”
There was no answer. He put his ear to the door, holding his breath to listen for movement inside. Nothing.
He pulled out his phone. Maybe she had decided to meet him at his place and they had just missed each other in traffic. She should have called, but maybe she was trying to make a grand gesture of apologizing like he had done with the carrots?
He tapped the number for his assistant. She answered right away.
“Hey, Hillary, are you at the house?” he asked. Cordel had converted his pool house into the Finding Folklore offices and Hillary had her own office there.
“Yeah, I’m in the main house. The AC guy is here working on the office air. What’s up, boss?”
“Good, did Arlyn Wade show up by any chance?” asked Cordel.
“No,” said Hillary, “Mr. Oliver came by wanting to discuss some things that he didn’t get a chance to talk about with you at breakfast since you left so early.”
Cordel let out a groan. He knew he had come off unprofessional, even though the group of execs from The Voyage Channel had told him it was fine, and that the book was important. “Did he seem mad? He was mad, wasn’t he?”
“No,” answered Hillary, “more like concerned. It’s not like you to skip out on a meeting with the execs.”
Cordel ran his hand over his chin. “Okay, I’ll call him and make time go into the Voyage offices to rub elbows. Man, I can’t believe this.”
“What’s going on?” asked Hillary.
“I left that breakfast to meeting with Arlyn and work on the book, but she’s not here and now I feel like an idiot.”
“I’m sure it’s just a misunderstanding,” said Hillary. “Is there anything I can do?”
Cordel shook his head. “No, not unless you have a time machine.”
“Maybe you should look for one of those on your next adventure?” teased Hillary. “Do you want me to call her?”
“No, thanks, I’ll do it,” said Cordel with a chuckle. He hung up, thankful to have Hillary. She was not only the best assistant he had ever had, she took life in stride and never seemed to stress. He was glad to call her his friend.
Cordel scrolled through his numbers and found Arlyn’s. He tapped the number and waited. As the cell started to ring on his end, he also heard music playing from inside Arlyn’s apartment.
He banged on the door again. “I know you’re in there Arlyn. I can hear you’re cell phone!”
Cordel waited sure she would finally answer the door. Her voicemail clicked on and he waited for the beep. “Arlyn, I’m at your front door. I can hear your cell ringing, so I know you’re there. This is unprofessional. I did what you asked.”
He jammed his finger into the “end call” icon wishing he could slam the phone down instead. He banged on the door again. “Arlyn, this is ridiculous, let me in.”
He put his ear to the door and heard nothing. No television, music, or footsteps, not even typing on the computer, the woman was being a ghost. Like most ghosts that Cordel searched for, she was being a pain in his neck and not showing up.
Shoving his phone into his pocket, he stormed down the hallway and through the front door. He looked down the street, thankful his driver had found a parking spot in the shade to sit and wait. He marched to the car and thrust the door open.
“Mr. Foster,” stammered the driver as he pulled his ear bugs out and closed his tablet. “I’m sorry I thought you’d be a while.”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Cordel. “I’m not upset with you. I’m quite capable of opening a car door, what I’m not capable of is tolerating bratty women, who insist on one thing and then when you do it, they change their mind. So incredibly childish.”
The driver looked over his shoulder. “Back home then?”
“No,” said Cordel, “go to the publishing house. I need to have a word with them.”
The driver gave Cordel a nod as he set off for their destination. Cordel tried to calm himself during the drive downtown, but the longer the drive took the angrier he became. He could not shake how he had gone out of his way to reschedule his whole day for Arlyn and then she didn’t even bother to open the door.
“We’re here, Mr. Foster,” said the driver. “No parking on the street, text me when you’re finished and I’ll meet you out front.”
Cordel gave the driver a nod before he got out of the car. He tried to calm his walking from a march to a normal pace, but his steps seemed to match his racing heart. He knew Arlyn’s editor Molly, was not to blame for Arlyn’s actions, but she was going to get an earful, none the less.
He stormed inside, took the elevator to the appropriate floor and then marched to the front desk. “Tell Molly O’Hanaghan that I need to see her immediately.”
Cordel didn’t give the receptionist his name. It was apparent by the way her mouth dropped open and she stared at him that she knew very well who he was. Molly was around the corner in an instant after the receptionist had hung up the phone.
“Mr. Foster,” said Molly, a big smile on her face, “this is quite the surprise. Can I get you a coffee, tea, water? I think we might have some soda in the fridge if you prefer.”
Cordel found him anger melting away at Molly’s smile. She was older than he, with a short brown hair and a smile that reminded him of his mother’s. It was a smile that said, she’d help in any way she could and then cook him a chicken pot pie for dinner because he was getting “too skinny.”
“Just a private place to talk,” said Cordel.
“Of course,” said Molly. She looked at the receptionist. “Hold my calls please, Ann. Right this way.”
Molly led Cordel through the office filled with cubicles and he worked hard to ignore the stares. He knew they were all wondering why he was there and if they could ask for an autograph, but they knew it would be unprofessional to ask. He appreciated their professionalism, which was more than he could say for Arlyn.
Molly gestured to a comfortable looking couch in her office, offering Cordel a seat, before she closed the door. Instead of going to her desk, she sat on the other side of the couch and turned towards him.
“How can I help you today, Mr. Foster?” she asked.
“It’s about Arlyn Wade,” said Cordel.
“Okay,” said Molly, softly, “I understand it’s been a bit of a struggle getting to know one another, but she reported your last meeting went very well.”
“It did,” said Cordel, “until she wouldn’t relent from her strict schedule and come to my house for the interview, so I rearranged my entire day to come to her apartment as she so stubbornly insisted, but she wasn’t there. I find this very unacceptable, Mrs. O’Hanaghan.”
“Please, call me Molly,” said Molly as she reached for her phone. Cordel noticed that her smile had faded into a look of worry. “Just give me a minute and let me call her.”
He was surprised when she stepped out of her office and closed the door to make the call. He tiptoed to the door and tried to listen through it. Then he shook his head and walked back to the couch. That was the second time that morning that Arlyn had him trying to eavesdrop through doors.
Molly came back in, her smile returned. “Good news, I got a hold of her and she’s all right.”
Cordel cocked his head. “She’s all right?”
Molly sat beside him. “I can’t go into details, but I can say that when you told me Arlyn didn’t answer the door this morning that gave me cause for concern. That isn’t like her.”
“So you know her well?” asked Cordel.
“I consider her one of my best friends,” said Molly. “So I ask that you be patient with her and I don’t think I’d be betraying her trust to say that there’s more going on that meets the eye. She has to have this schedule, that’s why she doesn’t typically do the initial interviews with clients. She usually meets them later after she’s reviewed what information has already been given. That’s what has worked best for her in the past.”
“I’m trying very hard, but when she pulls a stunt like this morning, it makes it very difficult,” said Cordel. “I expect a higher level of professionalism, but I’ll do what you ask, because you’ve given me something that intrigues me.”
“What is that?” asked Molly.
“The mystery of Arlyn Wade to solve.”
“Mr. Foster, that is not what I was getting at,” state Molly. “I’m asking you to respect her privacy, not totally disregard it.”
Cordel stared at Molly and thought about his options. It would be easier just to find another ghost writer and not put up with the annoying and, what he considered to be, incredible unprofessional behavior. There was something about Arlyn that grabbed at him. She was unlike anyone he had ever met. She wasn’t intimated by his celebrity status, which in a way made her easier for him to talk to, but she acted like a diva herself. If one were looking in from the outside they might think that Arlyn was the celebrity the way she demanded things.
He sat back and shook his head. Everything she was demanding, he had originally agreed to. He wanted Arlyn Wade to write his autobiography. He wanted to come out looking like an explorer and not fool searching for noises with an overactive imagination.
“Mr. Foster, do we have an understanding?” asked Molly, snapping Cordel out of thoughts.
“We do,” he said with a nod.
“So you’ll respect her privacy?” asked Molly. “You’ll not pry and you’ll take my word for it that she has a good excuse for not answering the door?”
He gave her a smile. “Molly, I like you.” His smile widened as Molly’s cheeks turned a soft shade of pink. “You’ve been honest with me and yet, you haven’t betrayed your friend.”
“I’m also her boss,” said Molly, “and I assure you that if you stay on schedule, this will not happen again. You’ll be glad you stuck it out with her, she’s excellent at what she does.”
Cordel rose and Molly followed his lead.
“I’m sure I will,” said Cordel. “Thank you for talking me off the ledge. I guess I’m not used to being stood up.”
“Again, she didn’t mean to,” assured Molly. “It was out of her hands as much as it was out of yours.”
“You know,” said Cordel, “it would be easier if you just told me what was going on. I can be very a very understanding guy.”
“You’ve shown as much in this office,” said Molly, “but it’s not my story to tell.”
Cordel nodded and walked toward the door. “Fair enough, thanks again for your time. Tell Arlyn I’ll her tomorrow at our usual time and place.”
He shook Molly’s hand and left the office, telling her there was no need for her to see him out. He knew the way. He had originally thought to stop and talk to some of the workers at the publishing house, make it a little meet and greet, but he was on a mission that couldn’t wait.
The minute he walked out of the building he texted his driver that he was ready and then called Hillary.
“Hey boss man,” she said. “Did you get everything worked out with Arlyn Wade?”
“For the most part,” said Cordel, “but I have some research work for you.”
“What can I help you with?” Hillary asked.“Find out everything you can on Arlyn Wade.”
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