I woke early the next morning, feeling cranky and out of sorts. Once Melissa was safely on the school bus, I stalked to the phone.
I didn’t waste time with pleasantries when I was put through to his briskly polite secretary.
‘I’m sorry, but Mr. Walters hasn’t arrived yet. Can I take a message for you?’
‘Yes. I need to speak to him as soon as possible. It’s urgent.’
I left her my name and number, but I wasn’t entirely certain that I would hear back from Mr. High and Mighty.
I poured my second cup of coffee and paced the floor.
Almost an hour later, the phone rang. I took a deep breath and answered it, giving no thought to telephone etiquette.
“Yes,” I barked.
There was a slight hesitation on the other end of the line, followed by the sound of a deep voice.
I didn’t have to ask who it was. I would remember that voice anywhere.
“Mr. Walters. How nice of you to return my call.”
The sarcasm obviously wasn’t lost on him. His voice was icy when he replied.
“Is there some reason that you’re trying to reach me or was it just a social call?”
“You don’t ever have to worry about receiving a social call from me. I’m calling because I want you to call off your bloodhound.”
My voice was shaking slightly with anger and I tried to get a grip on my emotions.
“I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”
“I’m not as stupid as you seem to think I am. I know what you’ve been up to.”
‘I think perhaps you should seek professional help. You’re obviously under the impression that I have an interest in you or your activities. After you left the other day, I never gave you a second thought and I suggest you do the same concerning me.”
The arrogance in his tone made my hackles rise.
“Oh, believe me, Mr. Walters, there’s nothing I would rather do than put you out of my mind permanently, but as long as you have someone following me that will be very difficult to do. You are a sick, deranged, sorry excuse for a human being if you have to stoop so low in order to try to scare me. And I know that’s what you’re trying to do. Your goon was much too obvious. But let me remind you, because I’m sure it slipped your selfish little mind, I have a child to care for and I won’t put up with it. If I see one sign of that man again, or anyone else for that matter, you’ll be receiving a visit from the police.”
I stopped and took a deep breath. My voice had risen higher as I talked, until I sounded almost hysterical. So what. Let him think I’m a crazy woman. Maybe that would scare him off.
There was a long silence on the other end of the line, and then.
“Ms. Andrews, I have no idea what you’re talking about but I suggest that if you are being followed by someone you should contact the police. However, there’s no need to mention my name because I’m not involved in any way.”
“I don’t believe you. There isn’t anyone else that would have any reason to follow us and you know it. So you can stop the silly games, and I hope I never have to speak to you again.”
With that, I slammed down the phone receiver. The act of venting my feelings had made me feel a little better, and I was now sure that Michael Walters realized I wanted nothing from him, so he would leave us be.
The next day I was at the office early, determined to make some headway with the new client, when Charlotte came to tell me I had a visitor. Before I could ask who it was, she turned and strode away with an odd smile on her face. Curious, I stood to go to meet this person at the reception area but was stopped short when I almost collided with a broad chest just outside my office door. I looked up into the sardonic green eyes of Michael Walters.
At first I was too stunned to speak. It crossed my mind to question him about how he knew where I worked, only to remember that he had been having me followed. The memory succeeded in angering me, and that anger carried through in my voice.
“What are you doing here?” I asked rudely.
“Good morning to you too,” he responded sarcastically.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Charlotte and Sandra curiously peeking around the corner, trying to see what was going on. I realized what was to follow was not something I wanted aired in front of the employees and anyone else who happened to walk into the office, so I quickly turned and gestured for him to follow me into my room, shutting the door behind him.
“What are you doing here?” I repeated, in a slightly softer tone.
“I can see you’re not in the mood for small talk, so I’ll get to the point.”
“I wish you would. I happen to be very busy and even though you may be used to other people dropping everything to do your bidding, you’re not dealing with that type of person here, so please, let’s get this over with.”
I had crossed to the far side of my office, trying to distance myself physically from him. I didn’t like to admit that his presence disturbed me, but I couldn’t ignore my rapidly beating pulse, and I didn’t want him to see it.
When I turned to look at him, there was no mistaking the scowl on his face.
“I’ve been thinking about our phone conversation yesterday. Have you called the police yet?”
I felt a surge of triumph. I had succeeded in frightening the oh-so-powerful Michael Walters and he had come to beg my forgiveness. I would be more than happy to let him grovel for a little while.
“No. I haven’t, but that doesn’t mean I won’t.”
He had been casually looking around my office but, at that remark, he turned and pinned me with a piercing look.
“You should. If you are being followed something is obviously wrong and it may not be safe for either you or the child.”
“There is no ‘if’. I was being followed and you know it. I don’t appreciate you coming here to threaten me. Your strong-arm tactics may work with some people but they won’t work with me. You’re nothing but a sick creep who gets his kicks from trying to terrorize women and young children. I suggest you leave this minute.”
My hands were trembling with anger, so much so that I clenched one behind my back and used the other to put a death-grip on the handle of the door as I wrenched it open.
The door was immediately slammed shut again as a large hand was laid solidly against it. He moved closer, making me move back until I was pressed against the door. He leaned down, bringing his face to within a few inches of mine, his brows lowered, his eyes glinting dangerously. His proximity and the sheer size of him, to say nothing of the look he was giving me, were rapidly starting to defuse my anger and replace it with a strong and very real sense of fear.
“You really are a Grade-A bitch, aren’t you? I must have had a temporary lapse in sanity, since I actually came here out of concern for your safety and that of the kid. Now I see I shouldn’t have bothered. You’re just a stupid, hard-headed, ungrateful little nutcase and I’ll be more than happy to leave. You probably made this whole story up just to try to get my attention and to wheedle more money out of me. Well, unfortunately for me, the part about getting my attention worked. But you can forget about the second part. You won’t be seeing one red cent from me and I won’t be disturbing you again.”
This whole speech was delivered very slowly, in a deep, quiet voice. My reaction vacillated back and forth between shock and anger. As he finished, his hand closed around my upper arm with an iron grip. He firmly moved me to the side, never taking his eyes off mine, until he released me to open the door. Without another look, he stalked out, slamming the door none too gently behind him.
After a few moments I realized I had been holding my breath. I let it out a bit shakily, wondering why I let him get to me. Michael Walters wasn’t worth my time and he was certainly not worth my peace of mind. I was now reasonably confident I would never have to deal with him again and whatever he had been trying to prove by having me followed would now be put to rest.