The Neighbours: Part III

Alex’s eyes snapped open and she groped for her phone in the bedside table. Had she slept at all? She felt groggy and tried to recount the number of glasses of wine she’d had before bed. No. It wasn’t that. She’d slept fitfully as her mind blurred the days events into a jumble of bloody clothes and frantic apprentices. She groaned as she let her feet hit the floor. It was earlier than her usual alarm but she was (apparently) not getting more sleep.

She trudged to the kitchen with Toby at her heels. It was early for him too and he was confused. In a dogs mind changing the routine could mean many things. Not all of them good. Alex knew Toby was sensitive to her temperament so she bent down to scratch his soft ears. He tilted his head in appreciation. Alex quickly turned the coffee maker on and grabbed Toby’s leash. Toby was already twirling at the door in anticipation.

Walking the dog was therapeutic. Alex took the time to visualize her day at work; she found that walking through the scenarios in her head like a home movie was helpful. Of course the “movie” script could be rewritten to accommodate several outcomes so Alex was careful to detail her script to mitigate damage. Both personally and professionally. As they rounded the corner back on to her street she noticed a couple of kids gathered in a small group on the sidewalk; looked like the road hockey guys. Getting closer she could tell one of them was crying and wiping his face. Was that blood?? Concerned she approached. Two of the boys ran off but two remained; the crying kid and one other who was using a rag to stop the bleeding. It was a gusher nosebleed and it was wasn’t a rag it was a T-shirt.

Alex stood next to the bleeding kid and asked if she could call his parents. Shoulders heaving and still sobbing he shook his head no. The other kid jumped in and confessed that if the parents knew they’d be mad. Mad? Alex thought to herself. What’s your name? The supporting friend says: I’m Nathan and that’s Quinn. Quinn was clutching the tshirt and looking to see if he was still bleeding. Alex offered to take them home but they declined. They’d be ok they assured her the bleeding only lasted so long. It happens a lot. Alex wanted to linger and do more but her time was now running short even though she had an early start. Reluctantly she carried on to her house a few doors away.

When she drove off a short while later, after completing the rest of her morning routine, the kids were gone. All that remained where they were was a crumpled bloody tshirt. Her mind immediately drew the connection between the shirt she found the day before and the incident that played out before her earlier. Alex felt there was definitely something related. But she’d have to wait until later to process her thoughts. Her immediate attention was on her office and the day that lay ahead.

She thought she had formulated a decent plan in her head. Firstly she would gather her assistant and run through the complaint. Her assistant would reference the company employee manual sections that applied as well as the employment standards laws. While laws and protocols weren’t always applicable they would certainly provide a framework. Meanwhile she would meet with Luke first and then Carrie. Getting full disclosure and a statement from both would set the tone of what would come next. In her experience there were two common outcomes: complete denial or admission of guilt. Getting to the truth however was often a winding road. Clearly her day would be chewed up by this so she hoped no other catastrophes were on the horizon. In any event, if Carrie was at fault (or that’s where things were leaning) she’d have to recuse herself due to conflict as her opinions and decisions could be construed as biased. Friends and colleagues at work was not always a good thing.

The office was a buzz and she could sense a bit of a tense vibe as she walked through the reception area. The office layout was typical: reception at the front, flanked by board rooms and small meeting rooms (think tanks), bullpen (myriad of cubicles and work stations) in the middle and the perimeter made up of executive offices including hers. There was another section for lunch room and bathrooms. But most people ate at their desk or ventured to the building lobby where a coffee shop did a brisk business. Making her way to her office Alex noticed a few people not making eye contact when they said good morning. Groan. The office grapevine/rumour mill was clearly in full force. Alex knew from experience that it was inevitable that the cat was out of the bag. So much for confidentiality.

Her assistant was waiting at her cubicle and when she saw Alex she popped up and they met at Alex’s office door. The look on her face was telltale. Alex has a sinking feeling that things were not going to be routine at all. Her script would soon be out the window she feared. It wasn’t even 9 am and it was going to be a long day.

Alex was adamant that any verbal discussions about staff between herself and others was conducted behind closed doors. Her assistant waited for Alex to unlock her door and followed her inside. Other than good morning no other words were spoken. Until the door closed behind them.

As soon as door closed, Alex’s assistant says: you better sit. Alex’s mind is racing with vignettes if possible scenarios. But nothing prepared her for the reality as her assistant handed her a tablet with a You Tube video cued up. Alex tapped the play icon and a grainy image appeared. It was apparent that a slight film or coating was prohibiting a clear visual. Nonetheless what was playing out was obvious. It was a hotel room and it was a sex tape. Carrie and Luke were the stars of the show. This changed Alex’s entire world.

The “show” lasted about 15 minutes before it was abruptly cut off. But there was no mistaking that Carrie and Luke had engaged in an intimate relationship. Questions started to formulate as Alex’s brain shifted into hyper overdrive. She looked at her assistant who added another bombshell to the mix: Carrie had resigned from the firm and Luke was pressing criminal charges.

In 24 hours Alex’s world was turned upside down. She had to reach Carrie. As a friend.

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