Twenty-seven? Lou wasnât kidding. The vultures are circling . With a heavy sigh, she carried the phone over to the love seat, sat down, and began working her way through from the beginning, finishing her now-cold dinner as she did.
Just as sheâd suspected, the messages were primarily a mix of media requests and well-meaning and/or curious friends calling to find out firsthand what had happened. Most of the calls could be deleted after the first sentence or so, and she quickly worked her way through, barely pausing until she reached message number seventeen and heard the voice of Gloria.
Snapping to attention, Kelsey pressed the button to make the message start over again and then listened more closely this time.
Kelsey, itâs Gloria. I donât know why youâre not answering your cell, but I thought Iâd try your home phone. Please contact me as soon as you get this. I know I told you to leave and go home, but Iâve changed my mind. Iâm ready to talk now. I need to tell you some things, Kelsey. Please. Itâs urgent. Before I lose my nerve .
Sitting up straight, Kelsey listened to the message once more, just to make sure she was hearing correctly. What was Gloria talking about? Pulse surging, Kelsey quickly zipped through the rest of the messages, just to see if she had left any others. Sure enough, there was one more, message number twenty, and that time her voice sounded even more frantic than it had before.
Kelsey, call me! Please! If you canât reach me by phone, come back to the office. Iâll be here. Iâm not leaving tonight until I tell you what I have to say. Please. Where are you? Call me!
The message ended with a sob and then a few clicks before it went dead, as if Gloria had been so overcome with emotion that she could barely even hang up the phone. Poor thing!
Face burning with guilt for having turned off the ringer and missed Gloriaâs calls, Kelsey dialed the office and then punched in the womanâs extension as fast as her fingers would go. It rang five times and went to voice mail, so Kelsey left a brief message and then tried Gloriaâs cell. It, too, went to voice mail, so she left another message, hung up, and then began pacing while she waited for her to call back.
When the phone still hadnât rung after five minutes, Kelsey tried both of Gloriaâs numbers yet again and then, on the off chance that sheâd changed her mind and gone home, called there too. No answer anywhere. Eventually, Kelsey knew she had no choice but to head back over to the office. In Gloriaâs message, sheâd said she wasnât leaving until they talked, and if Kelseycouldnât reach her by phone to just come back. Thatâs what she would have to do. Glancing at the clock, she saw that it was now almost seven fifteen. She hoped that meant enough time had passed since the incident that everyone, including the press, had gone home by now.
Kelsey went to the bedroom closet and rooted through a few spare purses until she came up with one that had some money in it, just in case. Slipping the bills into her pocket, she grabbed a jacket and her spare apartment key and headed out.
Down at street level, she was almost at the front door when she spotted a small cluster of people gathered on the walkway outside. With a gasp, she darted behind a pillar, her heart pounding. Reporters. Of course. She should have expected this.
Careful to keep out of the sightline of the front windows, she inched along the wall until she was able to turn the corner and head for the back exit instead. Unfortunately, that meant walking out between two extremely smelly dumpsters, but it was worth the trouble. Five minutes later, she was at the elevated walkway over West Street, and no one even knew sheâd left her building.
Kelseyâs commute from home to work was just under half a mile, an easy walk at any time of day but especially now, when there was less