The name Simon Hedwick faded from the computer screen and then the computer shut down. John Preston opened the computer and removed the hard drive and put it in his leather satchel. He then pulled the cover down over the computer and then slung the satchel over his shoulder. He looked around at his cubicle, noting the many tacks that were stuck in the empty walls where three years of news articles about Simon Hedwick along with many pictures of him had hung. He walked out of the cubicle and down the aisle between the cubicles saying goodbye to his coworkers.
"You off to write that book?" the OpEd Editor asked.
"Sure am," John replied.
"It going to be about your idol Simon Hedwick?" the News Editor called out.
"We'll see," John answered. "That depends on how close I can get to him."
He reached the elevators and waited impatiently until the doors opened. Brian Short, the features editor, stepped out of the elevator. He patted John on the shoulder.
"So, this was your last day with us," he said. He took a cigar from inside his suit jacket and handed it to John. "This is for good luck."
"Thanks, but I don't smoke cigars," John said.
"You'll need to learn," Brian said as he shoved the cigar in John's pocket. The gold band of his ring with the hangman's noose engraved in it gleamed.
John stepped into the elevator. The doors closed.
# # #
Six months later at a little before midnight John stepped out of the elevator on the ninetyeighth floor of the Hedwick Tower and into Simon Hedwick's outer office. Stooped over, her bent back weighted by a large hump, Hilda stood at the door to Simon Hedwick's office with one hand on the knob and her other hand on a cart containing cleaning equipment equipment and supplies. She looked John up and down, from head to toe. "You gettin' a promotion?" she asked.
John straightened his tie. "How did you know?"
She squinted at him, sizing him up. "People always come at this time of night when they're movin' up. It's one of Mr. Hedwick's peculiarities."
"Mr. Hedwick called me himself to come right away," John said. "I didn't know Ruth Eberson was leaving her position."
Hilda lowered her voice to a raspy whisper. "Mr. Hedwick don't like being told no." She opened the door. "He'll be back in a few minutes. You can come in and wait for him while I clean up." She pushed the cart into the office and scanned the room as John walked in behind her. The smell of cigar smoke hung in the air. John went to the window and looked out at the city skyline.
Hilda took a broom and dust pan from the cart and swept up a mound of ashes that were on the floor in front of a chair with a red velour seat placed in front of a large mahogany desk. She then poured the ashes into a brown paper bag and then brushed a pile of ashes from the seat into the bag. She shook the bag and pulled out a gold ring with a hangman's noose insignia. She dropped the ring into her pocket, returned the broom, dustpan and brush to the cart and wheeled it to the door.
"Good luck, young fella," she said.
John turned. "Thank you," he said. "I'd like to ask you some questions sometime if you wouldn't mind."
Hilda let out a loud cackle. "I've been here almost from the day this tower was built and I can tell you it's best not to go about askin' questions."
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