Masked by Design - Chapter Five
Black mask in place Erik double checked to ensure he had everything he wanted to take with him then snuck out of his master bedroom and took silent steps down the stairs.
His goal firmly in sight, he kept his back to the wall and headed toward the garage door.
With no one around to slow him down, he opened the door, stunned he managed to pull off this maneuver in his own home. He reached for rarely used keys to his boring black sedan, tensing when they weren’t in their specified spot if he needed to make a quick getaway.
Suddenly the lights in the garage flashed on nearly blinding him and he spun on his heel to find Trevor leaning against his car of choice.
“Looking for these?” Trevor dangled the keys between his fingertips.
Erik narrowed his eyes. “I will not entertain your obvious question.” He stomped over and swiped the keys away.
A laugh escaped Trevor’s throat and with a bow he leaned over and opened the car door. “If you wanted to see her all you had to do is walk down the stairs this morning.”
Refusing to acknowledge the fact that both he and Trevor knew exactly where he was going and what he was doing he slipped into the car. All day he managed to avoid his assistant and at the critical moment he was found out. He grabbed the handle.
Trevor stopped him from closing the door. “She was here hours early just as you predicted, and she seemed quite peeved with a note and money with no masked man to hand it to her personally.”
Erik certainly did not need a recap of what he already knew. They both were well aware that he watched the whole early morning visit from one Kristine Davis from his own special vantage point. “I need to go.”
“I agree.” Trevor took hold of the door. “You sent her to a construction site by herself at night.”
He ground his teeth together and shoved the keys into the ignition. In less than 24 hours this foolish girl had let a strange man into her car, walked into a home where she didn’t know if the man who answered the door was a mass murderer or not and now she was on her way to a questionable part of Los Angeles at night in a construction site where anything could happen. The little sprite could step on a nail and get tetanus, then what would he do? Of course this wasn’t his problem, if she followed his insane instructions that was her issue.
“You told her to go there, I already know she went shopping for supplies, if you don’t think she’s there you are even more delusional than sending her there in the first place,” Trevor said.
Tired of his assistant playing the role of his inner monologue, he yanked the door hard enough to cause Trevor to let go, opened the garage door and sped away.
Clutching the steering wheel he drove through the hills toward the site of one of his pet projects, a renovation on vintage office building that the city originally wanted torn down but a group of historians fought to preserve. The money wasn’t what he was used to but he took the project anyway in the name of history.
While Trevor handled any meetings during the light of day, it wasn’t unusual for Erik to inspect his sites under the cover of night where he could be alone and not be bothered and gawked at.
This was the first time he wanted to study something other than the work the contractors completed.
He drove around the back of the site and parked. The multi-story building stood like a broken tree in the middle of the gated off construction site.
If this morning was any indication, Kristine had already come and gone or wouldn’t show up meaning missed her lesson without knowing it. Still, he glanced at the time, grabbed his bag and got out of his car deciding to give her a five minute grace period. His instructions clearly said to be there at nine sharp which meant she should be here within 10 minutes.
He opened the gate, and with ease climbed up some of the scaffolding on the outer edge of the building, finally making his way inside.
On cool nights there was nothing better than sitting up high overlooking the city in a private spot with no one and nothing to bother him.
Why he even decided to invite someone into his world was beyond him. Why he continued this foolishness only made him question his own sanity. Why he was now sitting here hoping she both would and would not show up let me know he was insane, no questions needed.
Who was he kidding he lost it a long time ago. First his face then his mind.
As he waited he shook his head. When she showed up this morning he couldn’t believe that she not only kept her end of the bargain, but was obviously excited enough and bold enough to arrive hours early.
He had also been awake preparing for the day, maybe over preparing.
A jolt electrified him when he spied her jalopy coming up his driveway that early. Had she’d been leaving his home at that time it would have made a magnificent walk of shame.
His heart sped as he watched her struggle with herself on her decision to come inside, and he admired the way she studied his door bell. The woman had a good eye.
He breathed a sigh of relief when she appeared give up her quest, but when she finally chose to take charge and come in no matter what the time, he knew he couldn’t see her for one simple reason.
She wasn’t there for him, not really.
She was there for his brain, his knowledge, his cache. He had been suckered into this before and he knew better.
Yet here he was holding his breath at 8:59 while a pair of headlights lit up the front of the site.
She was here.
With a keen eye he watched the car, hitting his fist into his leg when his first thought was questioning if she brought someone with her.
That’s what she should do.
Heat blazed through him and he broke out into a sweat until at last the car door opened and she emerged.
After she took her time opening and closing the doors to her car, and grabbing something he couldn’t quite make out, he at least determined she was alone and he allowed himself the luxury of inhaling.
In her one move that smacked of caring about her own safety, she left the headlights to her car on.
The lights served an additional purpose, upon her moving in front of the vehicle he was treated to a perfect silhouette of her shapely form including the inward slope of her waist and her long hair billowing out like a fine piece of silk in the breeze.
He couldn’t take his eyes off her and he waited to see what she would do now.
Other than showing up here, he didn’t give her any instructions. Most anyone he knew would have stood there either tapping foot or with their arms crossed for a requisite amount of time until they returned to their car and left.
However, as with everything he knew about this person thus far, she proved to be different.
She walked back and forth in front of the gate, stopping and gazing up at the half completed structure, then repeated her actions then returned to her car, but she took her time and didn’t rush.
He wondered what she saw.
At one point she stopped and seemed to stare exactly in the place he hid himself.
Though there was no chance she could see him, he still found himself remaining perfectly still. What was she looking at so intently?
Alas the spell was broken and she finally returned to her car.
This whole thing was over way too fast and Erik shook his head. At least she appeared to truly look at the building, he had to give her that.
Rather than leaving, she opened her car door and turned off the lights.
The darkness caught his attention and he straightened up. What did she notice? What did she see?
In a flash she turned the lights on, the repeated her action several more times, opting to end with the lights on, but she didn’t leave.
Now he had to know. “Does the dark bother you Kristine?”
“Mr. De Anton?” She stepped in front of her car once more.
“Does the dark bother you?” He asked again.
Before spewing out an answer she paused and shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “I have been known to leave the lights on while I sleep.”
The image of her curled up among satin bedsheets made him wipe his forehead. “Then why turn the lights off?”
“Because...” Her sweet little voice trailed off.
He stood up and clutched the beam in front of him. “Tell me Kristine.” Her answer now seemed vitally important.
“Because if you asked me to come here in the dark you obviously wanted me to see it that way.” Her words floated up to him.
He shut his eyes, but unfortunately that didn’t shut her out or her words out. “Then turn of the lights Kristine, I’m here, nothing will hurt you.”
Without a word she complied.
Once the light was gone he opened his eyes again. Rather than a stark silhouette she was now an ethereal shadow down below.
Rather than gawk at her like a schoolboy he decided to get the answer to his question. “Now, tell me what you see.”
“Potential,” she gasped the word.
Wanting her to continue, he pressed his lips together.
With tentative tip toe steps she approached the gate dividing them again. “I see something that was once broken.”
Her words made his chest tighten. Next she would speak about how he was fixing the building how it would return to what it once was before. Everyone had to fix things. Over the years he had been the recipient of those who thought they could cure him on both the outside and the inside. It didn’t work, never did never would. Of course she would fall into that category. Though he knew how she would respond to his next question, he asked it anyway, then maybe he could discard her at last. “What do you do with something that’s broken?” Yes, he bated her, he wanted this over with.
She turned her attention away from the building and right to where he hid himself. “I would say that depends on what’s broken.”
He ran his hand through his hair. “Explain.” In truth he could barely get the word out.
“Is anything ever really fixed?” She put her hands on the top of the gate and propped herself up. “Nothing is ever returned to what it once was, maybe that’s not even the goal.”
Needing to be closer, needing to make sure he heard correctly, he climbed down from his perch. “What would be the goal?”
She cocked her head and looked around. “Mr. De Anton?”
“I asked you a question, Kristine.” Now on the ground floor, he hid behind a pilon. “Answer.”
Silence met his ears and he shook his head. He knew she had to be too good to be true. Surely now she would try to find him, call out to him again instead of answer the question like he wanted. No one ever complied, no one ever listened.
“Mr. De Anton?” Her voice seemed to echo around him.
“What?” He attempted to sound as if he wasn’t gritting his teeth.
“I think rather than fix it the goal would be to make it what it can be with what is has.” She spoke fast.
Did she mean that? Before he could ask, she went on.
“I think that once something is broken it will never be what it was before, but I think you can take what remains and make it better, but it will never be the same.”
Even from where he stood he could hear her suck in her breath.
“That’s why your restorations are so brilliant. I think most believe they are just getting what they once had, but with your attention to detail you are making it more than what it was.”
In that moment he wished he could see her words, they were perfect almost too perfect.
“Mr. De Anton?” Again she called out to him.
He came around the pilon and glanced over at her, her sweet little face peeking over the chicken wire fence. Maybe it was better the night blurred her features.
“What time should I meet you at work tomorrow?”
At last he came out from the shadows, faced her and crossed his arms. The way she worded the question wasn’t lost on him. “If I say seven thirty will you show up in the middle of the night?”
She let out a little giggle. “Whatever time as long as you’ll be there.”
“Seven thirty.” He was beaten by her again.
“Got it.” She waved to him and backed away from the fence. “Thank you for my lesson. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He returned her gesture and stood there until she got in her car and drove away. Yes, he would be there, he wanted to see her face in the light.
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