The Only Solution(3)

By: Leigh Michaels

And as for the rest of it, about how Marissa’s parents would ruin Rory? Wendy swallowed hard.

She’d never met the Burgesses. They hadn’t even come themselves to go through Marissa’s belongings after her death; an attorney had handled the details. The only things she knew about Marissa’s family was what the young woman had said in anger and – at the last – in pain. Marissa was young and a bit self-centered, without the understanding that maturity might have brought. Perhaps, without even realizing it, she had exaggerated. In any case, Wendy would have to take the chance.

She was a few minutes late to work. Not that it mattered much now, she supposed. The projects which had been so important and so timely a few days ago were as dry and worthless as last year’s news. She’d been working on next season’s catalog, and there wasn’t much sense in writing descriptions aimed at selling valves and gauges that would never be manufactured, was there?

But her colleagues in the marketing department were not standing in groups around the coffee pot and the water machine, analyzing their predicament, as she had expected. If anything, the atmosphere was more harried than usual. In the rows of small cubicles, heads were bent over drawing boards and desks. They were all updating their resumes, Wendy concluded.

Her boss came out of his glass-walled office and crossed to her cubicle. “You’re late,” he accused.

Stress and anger and worry and lack of sleep all stirred together made a potent explosive, and Wendy spoke before she thought. “So fire me.”

He frowned. “Don’t be impudent.”

Wendy bit her tongue. Under the circumstances, she needed the best reference Jed Landers could give her. “Sorry, Jed. It’s the shock, that’s all. What’s going on?”

“We need to plan a campaign to sell out the last of the inventory.”

“Sort of a final clearance?” She frowned. “Doesn’t the bankruptcy receiver take care of that?”

“You don’t want to work, Miller?”

“I was just asking.” She hung her raincoat on a hook. Even if the assignment was meaningless, it would be better than doing nothing. Just putting in time for the next two weeks would drive her around the bend. “Jed? Is there going to be any company support for job-hunting? Any counseling or help in finding contacts?”

“Not that I’ve heard about. If there is, I’ll let you know.” He put a stack of computer paper on the corner of her desk. “Here are the inventory records as of yesterday.”

Wendy reached for the stack and a pencil. It was mid-afternoon before she managed even a lunch break, and then she merely toyed with a tuna-salad sandwich for a while before returning to her desk. The only advantage to the whole situation, she thought, was that no one asked what on earth was making her so blue. They all knew – or thought they did. Or else they were too absorbed in their own troubles even to notice hers.

She finished her part of the sales campaign and took it into Jed’s office. He took it with a grunt, not even glancing at her. Wendy reminded herself that Jed, too, was going to be out of a job soon. At his age, and with a couple of kids in college... well, it was no wonder he was grumpy.

Besides, it wasn’t really Jed’s moodiness that was bothering her. It was the telephone call she had to make.

She went back to her cubicle, took a slip of paper out of her raincoat pocket, and spread it on the desk blotter. She had gotten the number last night from directory assistance, just as soon as she had made her decision. She couldn’t put it off any longer.

But it might be too late to call, she thought, and looked hopefully at the clock. She had only a business number; the Burgess home telephone was unlisted. And since it was an hour later in Chicago than it was in Phoenix, Samuel Burgess might be gone. If he kept bankers’ hours...

He wasn’t precisely a banker, though. Wendy wasn’t quite certain what he was. In fact, she had known Marissa for months, and they’d even shared the apartment for a while, before she’d had any information about the girl’s family. Not that it mattered, of course. In the circles they moved in, no one asked questions about origins or connections or ancestry.

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