Storytime – The Meeting

lawoffice-largeA writing assignment from one of my writing groups:

You are strongly urged to attend this mystery meeting at a law office.  What’s it about? Who’s going to be there?  Let’s hear the story.

————————————-

I replied to the message, said I’d be there as requested.  I had a week to think it over before I was supposed to be there – plenty of time to worry.  If only the message had hinted at the subject of the meeting… if only.
I vaguely remembered my Uncle Festus, who lived in St Louis.  He was rumored to have made a fortune in plastic pocket protectors back in the sixties.  Pocket protectors, paper toilet seat covers, one of those.  Maybe his time had run out and he had remembered me in his will.  No, that didn’t seem likely, since we had not had any contact in decades.
The phone rang, startling me.  “Yes?”
A distant voice asked, “Is this Elbert Clingpeach?”
I replied that it was, and the voice (man or woman, I couldn’t tell) then asked, “Are you going to the meeting?”
I started to reply in the affirmative, but then I thought about it and got a little irritated.  “Say, who is this, anyway?”  The line went dead.
I started pacing the floor, as I often did when I faced a puzzle.  My office was pretty small, and sort of cramped, but I managed to pace off some of my worry after a bit.
Then I noticed that someone had slipped an envelope under my office door. I picked it up, tore it open to find a single typewritten page with one sentence. One question.  It asked, “Are you going?”
I quickly opened the door but didn’t see anyone there.  I walked down one flight of stairs but still saw no one lurking about.  I returned to my office to find that someone had delivered a package in my absence.  Now, this was getting odd.  I didn’t pass anyone on the stairs, so where had this come from?
Gingerly, I picked up the package and examined it.  Plain brown paper, the kind you used to get at the notions store, butcher paper, I think it was called.  Tied with string, tightly knotted.  The package label had my name, but no address.  Had it come by courier?  How else could the package carrier have known to bring it here?  I knew I’d be pacing again, soon.
I opened the package, very carefully, looking for any hint of a mechanism or strange powder, whatever.  I don’t believe I’ve ever been paranoid, but today’s events could just about put me in that state.  I got the package completely unwrapped, and found one of those fancy desk nameplates in it, face down.  I picked it up and turned it over.  In beautiful script it read, “Will you be there?”  I dropped the cursed thing in the trash, and threw the packaging in after it.  I resumed my pacing.
The phone rang again, and I almost screamed.  I grabbed up the handset and answered shakily, “Yes, what?”  I was almost shouting.
My wife was on the line this time, and she didn’t appreciate the way I answered the phone.  I managed to get her settled down, then asked, “Yes, dear, what is it?”
She replied, “Well, some men came to the door today, looking for you.  Something about a meeting.  I sent them away, said I’d ask you.  What meeting?”  I had to hang up, probably too abruptly.  I‘d be in trouble with her again.
The week slowly passed, with several more strange occurrences, people on the phone, more messages, always pretty much the same thing, “Are you going?  Will you be there?”
On the appointed day, at the correct hour, I knocked on the door of the law office.  I was ushered into a small conference room, and there was one person who introduced himself as a lawyer, and then there was one other individual there.  This other one was a young girl, and she didn’t look familiar to me.  She was looking at me rather oddly, and it occurred to me that I was probably quite a sight.  My nerves were worn to a frazzle, which made me pretty fidgety, and I noticed that my shirt was improperly buttoned, there was an ugly stain on my jacket, and I had forgotten to put on socks. Not exactly what you’d call ‘presentable’.
The lawyer shuffled some papers, then said, “Well, let’s begin.  Mr. Clingpeach, Miss Johnson here has instructed me to query you about an important matter.  There is another meeting scheduled for next week, and she was wondering…. Will you be there?”

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