I shake my head. “No. That’s not him.” This man is a good twenty years older, and though he looks grumpy, he doesn’t ooze creepiness. I glance at Chris. “I guess I should have gone to the office in the first place.” I begin to doubt myself. Have I created this danger in my mind? Did I make this more than it had to be?
Chris pulls me around to face him, and I slide my arms under his jacket. He is warm and the wind is cold. “Don’t do what you’re doing,” he orders.
“What am I doing?”
“If you felt that you were in danger, if you ever feel that you’re in danger, don’t ignore that feeling.”
“And if it is a random power outage?”
“How do you define random?” he asked.
“I don’t know. It’s not a city-wide thing like I thought it might be. I just . . . I don’t know what I think.”
“We’ll figure it out together.” His fingers brand my hips, and the possessive way they splay there makes me believe him.
“Can I help you folks?”
We turn to find the maintenance man behind us and I’m amazed at how fast he’s arrived, or maybe time just goes by quickly when Chris is holding me. I suspect that is the case when Chris releases me, and I wish he hadn’t.
Chris indicates his flashlight with a lift of his hand. “The power went out before we could lock up. We just want to get it sealed up and then we’re on our way.”
The man scrubs his jaw. “I wasn’t aware we had anyone inside when the power blew. I went inside and checked for anyone who needed help.”
“I was inside,” I say. “And it wasn’t fun. Someone shut the outer door and I couldn’t seem to get out.”
The man frowns. “The door’s open, ma’am. It was open when I went inside.”
“Because I opened it,” I say, pointing out the obvious, and I can’t keep the defensiveness out of my voice.
“You have cameras in this place?” Chris asks.
“We do,” he said. “But no power means no camera.”
“Surely the remote security has its own feed,” Chris argues.
“We aren’t sophisticated here, mister. It’s all us.”
Chris’s brows furrow. “Then maybe you should get more sophisticated. She could have been hurt.”
“We’ve never had anyone hurt on site,” the man argues.
Chris looks like he’s going to argue but then clamps his lips together. “We just want to lock up our unit and be out of your way.”
“What’s the number?” the man asks.
“One-twelve,” I tell him.
He scrubs his jaw. “Oh right. I was the one you talked to on the phone. I see that unit is on my pending auction list again. It’s past due.”
“But the office manager gave me a one-week extension.”
“Almost two weeks ago,” he said. “And that was me.”
“We’ll pay for another month,” Chris says, and I cringe.
I turn to face him and he pretends not to notice the objection in my face when I know he does. He focuses on the maintenance man. “Let us lock up and we’ll come to the office and pay.”
“That’ll be fine,” the man agrees.
Chris takes my hand. “Don’t argue.”
“I don’t want you to pay my bills,” I say softly as we walk toward the building.
“I don’t need you to take care of me, Chris.”
He glances down at me. “Questionable after tonight.”
“I’ll pretend you didn’t say that, because I’m sure you wouldn’t want me to keep feeling the sting of my decision over and over again. That would be downright not nice of you.”
“I want you safe.”
“I am. I’m safe. And I have a check from the gallery coming soon to pay the rent here. I planned to beg for more time and pay them then.”
“Now you don’t have to,” he said. “And what are you going to do about your job at the school?”
“You’re changing the subject.”
“You aren’t answering the question.”
“I have time to decide.” I don’t know how in tune he is with the school system and the new mayor’s budget cuts since he’s in Paris half the year. “This is the second year that the public high schools have shorter years and longer days. I don’t start back until October first.”
We stop at the door of the building and Chris turns on the flashlight. “You know you aren’t going back. You should tell them now so they can replace you.”
“I can’t talk about this now,” I say as we stop at the doorway of the building, and the darkness starts to creep me out. I move closer to Chris and wrap my arm around his. “I just want to get in and out of here.”
Chris flips on the flashlight. We take several steps forward and I hear that noise that had freaked me out in the dark alone. Pop. Pop. I stop dead in my tracks. “What is that?”
Chris slowly moves the flashlight around in the darkness and there is a crackling sound and another pop. He settles the glow on the wall by the floor and leads me forward. He squats next to a light socket and I follow him down into the beam of the light to stare at the outlet. There is a paper clip shoved inside the hole of one plug.
My chest tightens. “I guess we now know how to define random.” I meet his stare. “I need to make sure nothing obvious is missing in the unit.”