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Chapter no 22 – The Present

Lesson, in Chemistry

“How was the first day back?” Harriet asked as soon as Elizabeth got home. “Fine,” Elizabeth lied. “Mad,” she said, bending over to sweep her daughter into her arms. “How was school? Was it fun? Did you learn

something new?” “No.”

“Sure you did,” she said. “Tell me.”

Madeline put her book down. “Well. Some of the kids are incontinent.” “Good god,” said Harriet.

“They were probably just nervous,” Elizabeth said, smoothing Madeline’s hair. “Starting something new can be difficult.”

“Also,” Madeline said, “Mrs. Mudford wants to see you.” She held out a note.

“Good,” Elizabeth said. “That’s what proactive teachers do.” “What’s proactive?” Madeline asked.

“Trouble,” muttered Harriet.

Elizabeth made her way down to Personnel a few weeks later. “Can you give me information on that investor?” Elizabeth asked Miss Frask. “Anything you have.”

“Why not,” Frask said as she yanked a single slim file folder from accounting stamped CONFIDENTIAL. “I gained two pounds last week.”

“Is there more?” Elizabeth asked, looking through the file. “There’s nothing in here.”

“You know how rich people are, Zott. Private. But why don’t we have lunch next week. It’ll give me more time to root through the files.”

But when the next week came, the only thing Frask brought was a sandwich.

“Couldn’t find a thing,” Frask admitted. “Which is strange given all the hoopla around his last visit. Probably means he decided to take his money elsewhere; happens all the time. By the way, how’s the lab tech job going? Suicidal yet?”

“How did you know about that?” Elizabeth said as a vein on her temple began to throb.

“I’m in Personnel, remember? We know all, see all. Or in my case, knew all, saw all.”

“What do you mean?”

“Now I’m the one who’s been fired,” Frask said matter-of-factly. “I’m out this Friday.”

“What? Why?

“Remember my seven-point improvement plan? Lose twenty pounds? I gained seven.”

“You can’t be fired for gaining weight,” Elizabeth said. “That’s illegal.”

Frask leaned over and squeezed Elizabeth’s arm. “Gosh, you know what? I never tire of your naïveté.”

“I’m serious,” Elizabeth said. “You must fight it, Miss Frask. You can’t let them do this.”

“Well,” Frask said, turning serious, “as a personnel professional, I do always advocate a heart-to-heart with the boss. Point out one’s accomplishments; focus on one’s future impacts.”

“That’s it.”

“I’m kidding,” Frask said. “That never works. Anyway, don’t worry— I’ve already got a bunch of temp typing jobs lined up. But before I leave, I have a little present for you. Something to make up for all the grief I caused

after Mr. Evans died. Why don’t you meet me on Friday at the south elevator. Four o’clock. I promise you won’t be disappointed.”

“Just down this hallway,” Frask instructed when Friday afternoon arrived. “Watch where you walk. A bunch of mice escaped from the biology lab.” Together she and Elizabeth took the elevator to the basement, then made their way down a long corridor until they reached a door marked NO ADMITTANCE. “Here we are,” Frask said cheerfully.

“What is this place?” Elizabeth asked, staring at a row of small steel doors labeled with the numbers one to ninety-nine.

“Storage,” said Frask, taking out a set of keys. “You have a car, right? And a big empty trunk?” She spun through the keys until she found number forty-one, inserted it in the lock, and invited Elizabeth to look inside.

Calvin’s work. Boxed and sealed.

“We can use this dolly,” Frask said, wheeling it over. “It’s eight boxes total. But we need to hurry— I have to turn in these keys by five o’clock.”

“Is this legal?”

Miss Frask reached for the first box. “Do we care?”

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