It was a dark and stormy morning and the sprinkles were leaving a web of wetness in Herman's hair. Ellen spotted him on the park bench and weaved her way through the smiling families to sit discreetly next to him. She opened her Agatha Christie novel and appeared to begin a chapter while he looked over at her faintly. She said nothing until the other pedestrians passed.
"Did you get what I need, Herman?" She surmised that he had received her payment by the bloated look of his belly.
He weakly retrieved a folded sheet of paper and slipped it into her outstretched orange fingernails. "Oh, man Ellen. You wouldn't believe how sick I feel. I had so many containers of nachos during the third quarter last night. Then Margarita got mad because the Packers won and she left and I was alone there with the burritos and..."
Ellen cut him off, "Herman," she said, "did you dispose of the trash where I told you? We can't have the evidence of all those snacks back in the dumpster the secretaries use...you could really get into trouble."
"Yes, yes," he said while rubbing his stomach, "I put them in Mr. Frank's office like you said. I don't know why he can eat whatever he wants."
"I told you, Herman, he is a mastermind of planning...he's the reason Fit for Life is able to be so successful. He can do whatever he wants. Us on the other hand...anyone could do our jobs." She paused, expecting a reply, but Herman only let out a small, deep belch, then moaned.
She unfolded the paper and perused its information with surprise. The implied culprit was who she suspected, but she was stunned by the meticulous manner in which Herman of all people was able to record the data. He had entered an entry time, exit time, and activity for every person who had come near Accounting the previous day. He had made his entries in neat rows, placing asterisks next to the most suspicious of the names. He had done a great job...she'd have to remember him if she ever needed some help in the future.
Herman declined her offer of a Snickers bar, which she had meant as an extra thank you, and left abruptly after their business was concluded. Ellen smiled...she was in possession of all she needed to make her final show down. Too bad she had one more day at work first. She groaned at the thought of editing that dull article on artichokes. "Only one more day," she thought as she began the trek toward her work building, "I just have to survive working there for one more day."
She entered the building, this time passing security without the stress of contraband. She began walking up the stairwell and she didn't even get winded. She took a seat at her desk and bent over to change out of her tennis shoes. When she sat up again, she was startled by the disapproving presence of a perspiring Latina.
Ellen didn't even have a chance to say hello.
Margarita started in on her, "I don't like what you're doing, I don't like it at all. I said to Herman that you were not good for him. He didn't even ask me what I thought of you..."
Ellen was amused. Surely Margarita didn't think she was interested in the lazy teen! "Margarita, please...it's not what you think. Herman and I have a business proposition and that's all..."
"I know what girls like you are like. You give him food and you talk to him real quiet..."
This time Ellen interrupted her with more purpose. "Margarita. Stop it right now!" She had been attracting some unwanted attention. She motioned for Margarita to follow her to the ladies room where she was able to calm her nerves with the vague promise of never talking to Herman again. Then she threw the motherly bloodhound onto another scent.
"Really it's not me you should be worried about. Have you seen the way that lady security guard looks at him when he comes in every afternoon?" Ellen didn't mention that she was watching him because she'd busted him for chicken nuggets on more than one occasion. Margarita got a new glint to her eyes, then thanked Ellen profusely before leaving to scout out the new threat. Ellen breathed a sigh of relief. That was a little too conspicuous for comfort.
She returned to her cubicle and read through several dull manuscripts before breaking for her unappetizing lunch of leek soup. While she quietly slurped, she dreamed of the fattening burgers she would be free to have soon...so soon. She was mid-daydream when Editor Wilhelm marched in to give his afternoon motivational speech. Carla, his secretary always sat up a little straighter after he uttered, "Let's go, team!".
She hydrated, then plunged in again, working steadily through the afternoon until the happy moment of her release. She skipped out the door, down the stairs, into the streets, then hopped onto the bus toward home. The comforting smell of fried chicken greeted her as she came in the door.
Her Mom smiled at her. "Hi." She was a woman of few words.
Ellen smiled back and leaned over the deep fryer in delight. It would be a great night. After a hearty dinner, she'd go down to her room and send out the necessary emails for her meeting tomorrow night. She'd thought and planned, and finally the time had come. It was the beginning of the end for the case of Fit for Life.