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RATING: G , written in first person, Miss Parker.
SPECIAL THANKS TO: AG for her help and for suggesting the name for the main character, Jiang.
The Jiang Affair
Eleven o'clock Friday night and most of the Centre staff including Broots have left for the weekend. Sydney and I are among the last to make our escape to the elevator for the lobby and I pause as we pass Lyle's office. He sits at his desk staring at paperwork, his thoughts far away.
"If you like Miss Parker, I can go on alone." Sydney offers before adding. "Go talk to him. He could use..."
"No Sydney. You can't console someone who doesn't want to be consoled. I know... I've been there." I answer softly. We continue on our way to the elevator, leaving Lyle to himself. But my thoughts are with him, Jiang and the tragic turn of events as the doors silently close.
As we descend I remember the first time I saw Jiang. She was standing in the lobby with Lyle, laughing. Tall, slender, with short black hair framing a face with delicate Chinese features, her attitude anything but submissive. She wasn't like the usual Chinese woman Lyle was attracted to. She wore a green suit, had a business-like manner and a easy self assured pair. Lyle introduced her and she smiled, saying she was new at the Centre, working in the 'waste management' department.
Broots' background check revealed she had grown up in the San Fransico area, well educated and over qualified for her job as a mere efficiency expert. I remember telling Syd she must be 'one hellva efficiency expert.' And Jiang was. She started with the smaller, less important departments. Auditing their books, trimming the fat, streamlining their operations while eliminating jobs.
Mean while, Lyle found numerous excuses to see her and soon they were spending time together. My inner instinct told me if Lyle had ever meet his match it was Jiang, she could take care of herself. But after May Lin, I couldn't let go that easy. As Jarod had said. "Someone has to stop him Miss Parker." I couldn't let what happened to the others happen to her. At first I had Sam follow them, then I took over. Lyle was the perfect gentleman of course. After a week, Lyle surprised me in my office.
"I'll get to the point Parker. I know why you're following me. You think something will happen to Jiang don't you? You don't trust me." He leaned against the edge of my desk smirking.
"And why would you say that?" I tried to dodge the question.
"Because I know how you operate. It's not what you think. Jiang is different. I don't know..." He laughed and the words began to tumble out unchecked. "She makes me feel...different. Alive. I think if any one could make me change, it could be her."
I had heard the same thing from Lyle before but this time it was different, honest. And in the weeks that followed even Sydney commented on Lyle's change of attitude. He acted more like a man in love, smiling, relaxed and cheerful. Syd suggested that maybe for the first time we were seeing Bobby Bowman and not Mr. Lyle.
Jiang took short unannounced trips from time to time. She never said where she went and during her absence Lyle would often stop by and talk. Maybe he was right, if anyone could change him it would be Jiang. But the trips bothered Lyle. After the eighth trip in three months, Lyle stopped in my office, obvious he needed advice but didn't know how to ask.
"These trips Jiang takes...don't you think they're strange?"
"Anything that has to do with the Centre is strange. Why do you ask?" I looked up from the computer to see a distressed look on his face.
"Because, I think Jiang is having a affair." Lyle quickly shifted his position as if embarrassed. "I meant ... I think she is seeing another man."
"What makes you say that? Do you have proof?"
"No, just a...feeling. A inner sense... instinct I guess you could say."
Now looking back I wish we both had listened to his 'inner sense'. A week later Jiang left for another trip. The next day a representative from the Triumvirate arrived and our team was called into a meeting. As we left for the Tower, Lyle pulled me aside.
"I haven't said anything yet but I wanted you to know." He reached into his pocket pulling out a small black velvet box and handed it to me. "I hope you won't say a word until I know if Jiang accepts or not. But ..."
I opened the small box and gazed at the ring. "It's beautiful Lyle. I'm happy for you." I closed the box and handed it back smiling. "I can't think of any one I would rather have for a sister in law."
We walked to the meeting together in high spirits. Broots and Sydney were already there seated before a man in his late fifties with greying hair. He greeted us with a heavy English accent, instructing us to sit. He had been going over our operations and had a few questions. But the questions he asked and the information he knew could have only come from a inside source. He accused our team of padding expense accounts, over looking leads, concerned more with the details of our personal lives rather then a focused search for Jarod. Lyle and I received the major brunt of accusations. Finally Sydney spoke up.
"And what or who may I ask is your source of information that you accuse us?"
The man only smiled and made a motion towards the ever present camera. "For the last three months I've had someone observe your operations. And I am not happy with the reports I have received."
"And this someone...what makes you think you can believe him?" Lyle asked leaning forward.
"Because Mr Lyle I know this person intimately." The door opened and a tall slender figure walked in. "You see... that someone is my wife, Jiang, who I am sure you are well acquainted with."
A faint wave of emotion swept over Lyle's face quickly replaced with a cold hard mask. The man continued to talk but I doubt either one of us heard what he had to say. Jiang stood next to her husband with a faint cat-like smile aimed in Lyle's direction. As the meeting concluded and we stood up, I could see a change in Lyle. Bobby Bowman was banished and Mr Lyle had returned. As we walked down the hallway I stretched out my hand and placed it on his shoulder stopping him.
"Lyle, I'm sorry."
"Sorry? Why?" He adjusted his tie with a disinterested look. "I would have gotten bored in six months and she would have ended up like the others." He laughed as he walked to the elevator and his thumbless fist slammed the button. "I guess you could say she's the one who got away." And that was the last he spoke of her.
Now as the doors of our elevator open and we exit to the lobby, I can see the place where I first saw Jiang.
"Lyle was right Syd. She was the one who got away." Sydney sighs and shakes his head. And as we pass, I can almost hear Jiang's laugh.