Chapter no 13 – NATALIE

The Coworker

WHEN I GET BACK to my cubicle, my phone is ringing. I’m not in the mood to talk to anybody, but I do have a job to do and maybe this will get my mind off everything going on. And when I recognize Carmen Salinas‘s number, I know it won’t be an unpleasant call. Making a sale today would give me a lift.

“Natalie!” Carmen gushes when she hears my voice. “I heard about what happened at your company! About that woman who went missing. Are you all right?”

“I’m fine.” I swallow a lump in my throat. “It’s just been a long day.” “I can’t imagine! Do they have any idea what happened to her?”

Despite everything, I almost laugh. Leave it to Carmen to call in search of gossip. But she’s not going to hear any of it from me. “I’m afraid not.”

“Oh my…” Carmen lets out a long sigh, and I can almost imagine her toying with the many strings and beads that she always wears around her neck. I’ve never seen that woman wearing less than five necklaces at a time. “I don’t even work there, but the whole thing is making me stressed out. I can’t even imagine how you must feel!”

“You should take a few capsules of LoStress,” I tell her. “That product works miracles for anxiety. We’ve gotten nothing but great feedback.”

“You know what, honey? I think we’re fresh out. Do you think you could bring by a case of it later today?”

I can read Carmen’s mind. She’s hoping to pump me for more information about Dawn’s disappearance later today, not that I expect to know anything more. Unfortunately, our stock is low at the moment, and LoStress is always a big seller. I’ve personally sold more of it than anyone else at the company. It makes me feel good that I’m helping people reduce their stress. How many people get to say that they truly help others at their jobs?

“I’m afraid I’ll have to put in an order,” I tell Carmen regretfully.

She’s disappointed, and I’m worried she’s going to tell me to forget about it, but then she surprises me by asking for two boxes. After we hang up, I enter the information into the computer, but just as I’m submitting the order, my attention is drawn to a commotion at the front of the office. I stand up, and over the edge of the cubicles, I can see Detective Santoro talking to Seth. They’re shaking hands. I can’t hear anything they’re saying, which makes me uneasy. Especially when Seth points in the direction of my cubicle.

The detective waves to me. I wave back.

Then he’s coming right toward me. I smooth out my hair and tuck a loose strand behind my ear. There’s no reason to be nervous. I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m sure the detective is just going to ask the exact same questions as yesterday, and then he’ll move on to somebody else.

A few seconds later, Detective Santoro is approaching my cubicle. He smiles at me, and I have to admit, his smile disarms me. He doesn’t seem upset or suspicious of me, and it also brings out a hint of dimples on both his cheeks. The detective is sexy in a swarthy sort of way.

“Miss Farrell, right?” he says.

I nod. “Yes. Detective Santoro?”

He beams at me. “You got a good memory.”

“You have to have a good memory if you work in sales.” It’s true. Clients love it when you remember every detail they told you about their lives and their business. That’s why I keep notes. “Have you found out anything about Dawn?”

The smile instantly vanishes from his face. “I’m afraid not. We’re doing our best to find your friend. I promise you that.”

“I appreciate that. Have you spoken to her mother?”

He nods grimly but doesn’t elaborate. “I’m hoping I could ask you a few more questions, Miss Farrell. I’m trying to gather as much information as I can to find her.”

“Of course. Anything I can do to help.”

“Well, that’s great.” He jerks his head to the left. “Your boss said we could use the conference room. Do you mind?”

It’s not like I have a choice. So I follow the detective to the conference room, all the while pushing away the sick feeling in my stomach.

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