Chapter 31

Carlton figured that Rachel must have gotten to the library by now and he was eager to give her the thumb drive so he headed for the elevator to go up to the main lobby. Approaching the elevator reminded him of the conversation he had with it on the way down. He un-clipped his ID badge from his belt and slid it into his pocket. The elevator doors opened before he was within 10 feet, and it gave the impression that the elevator had been waiting for him.

“Hi Carlton!” chirped the elevator happily has he entered.

“Oh, er, Hi.” He replied, trying to not sound surprised. The doors closed and he immediately felt pensive, anticipating another conversation. He waited for a moment.

“What floor do you want?” the elevator asked, as if he had forgotten to say.

“Main lobby please.” Carlton was confused. He had figured that the elevator would already know based on probability where he would be going. He felt a little mischievous with his next question. “Couldn’t you pretty much guess where I would be going? I mean, I only ever go from the lobby to the conference room and back again.”

“Excuse me?” said the elevator evidently taken aback. “I am not a mind reader. I’m not supposed to just take people to any old floor based on what I think they want.”

“Oh, sorry. I guess I’m getting ahead of myself.”

“Sure, you build computers with real personalities. Well I’m not one of them. If you want a wife who can read your mind and figure out what socks you want in the morning then you better build one!”

“Wow, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“No, of course not. You just thought that you could step into an elevator and be taken wherever you want without saying a word.”

There was silence for a moment and a faint ding could be heard as they arrived at the main lobby.

“I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to presume. One quick question: How did you know that it was me?”

“Facial recognition.”

“Oh, right.” and with that, the conversation was over and Carlton strode out of the elevator.

When Carlton got to the circulation desk, Rachel was already busy at the main terminal. Library visitors and users were milling around now, since it was officially open. Carlton strode up to Rachel with the portable drive in his hand and proudly presented it to her, a beaming smile on his lips. “I told you I’d have it ready.”

“Thanks,” she barely looked up, “but it appears that the software is already installed. I don’t need that thing.” But then she remembered herself and straightened up to look at Carlton. “Thank you very much. Your device driver is working. I don’t know why you’d think I’d need that thing back.” She whispered under her breath, “I’m not the village idiot you know.”

Carlton was taken aback, but decided to ride with it, since, after all, he was the village idiot. A village idiot who, it seemed, was merely a pawn in the planning and manipulation of someone far superior. He hoped it wasn’t Frank. Ruth was standing, leaning with both hands on the counter, talking to Biblio. She was dressed as usual in feminine professional attire. Her figure was delightfully outlined by the curve around her hip and thigh. Carlton leaned in close to whisper, “You’re welcome.” He came close enough to smell Ruth’s fragrance, a feminine mix of shampoo, deodorant, fabric softener, and woman. He didn’t back away immediately, but took a long breath to savor the aroma.

“What are you doing?” she whispered.

Carlton inched closer and took another long quiet sniff, “trying to remember a time that was much less complicated,” he said wistfully. Ruth gave him a gentle nudge with her hip. They looked at each other, and for a second their surroundings were forgotten and here were a man and a woman who both wanted so desperately to love, to be loved. It happened in an instant, and then it was over, but not forgotten. Now, though, it was time to get to work.

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