4 minutes 6 seconds| Paradise fleetingly glimpsed through dingy motel curtains.
Novel-in-Progress, excerpt 19| Howard Meade is the next observer to relieve, and Lowell and he propose more scenarios about the incapacitated guard. In the process, the Native-American observer asks the following:
“Have you heard anything about the new hire?”
“New hire…?” erupted the desired question. “Are we in need of another observer?”
The Indian scout expounded, “The interview was conducted during my shift. It was all hush-hush, and at one point lights were turned off in the office.”
“Why would a job interview be held at night? In a dark room?”
“Interviewer and interviewee broke up outside my door,” Howard continued. “One took the working elevator down; and the other, the helical staircase.”
Lowell knew by his friend’s expression that he regarded this distinction as important, so stated his reading of it. “Obviously our boss took the elevator, and the new hire, being unfamiliar with the tower’s layout, or out of a profuse feeling of deference, took the servant’s exit.”
Howard drew up a schematic. “I keep the lights on the helical stairs off until morning. You can either turn them on from the top step, or from the bottom. In either case the switch makes a loud clacking sound, and the fluorescents buzz like hornets until they warm up. The squeaky elevator is on the same wall as the light plate, so it’s impossible to sneak up on me.”
(The observer obliquely referred to his guarded practice of sleeping on the job, but the friend pressed his riddle.)
“So the stair lights were off when the prospective hire took to the steps?”
A look of appropriate graveness was offered, and Lowell was nonplussed to picture it. “The tower is nine stories tall—if it is ten; and that circling staircase is dizzying even with the lights on. Only a slithering reptile would attempt it in the dark.”
“I poked around in the office when I deemed it safe,” admitted the sleuth, “and found paperwork.”
The coworker did not approve of this snooping, but would not stop listening.
“Nothing particularly jumped out about the man’s application until I saw ‘blind’ listed as a disability.”
“Blind…? Surely you jest? He must’ve been applying for another position.”
“‘Observer’ was marked down.”
Scratching his head, or feigning to do so, Lowell shrugged off the compounding mysteries, as it was a lot to absorb. “Wait until I get to the door downstairs before you leave me in the dark,” came his parting request.
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