Date Published: December 1, 2016
Publisher: Dark Hollows
Every Breath excerpt six
The Blue had another game that weekend but Brianna did not attend since she didn’t want to bring Melinda out and have her sit in the cold auditorium even though she was feeling much better. Julie suggested her niece could babysit again but Brianna decided she would just stay in. Devon was disappointed but understood. There was one more local game before the team headed out of town. Brianna vowed to make it to that one.
The following Monday, Brianna arrived at Saint Martin Group offices before anyone else which felt odd. Marie had always arrived before her and it was strange to now have the outer office to herself. She would miss Marie even though she had only known her for a couple of weeks. Brianna went quickly about the morning chores of making the coffee, bringing up her computer, and scanning her email for anything urgent. She knew today would be a demanding day due to Devon having to prepare to leave for an out of town game in a couple of days. He had a number of back to back appointments, including one with Kent Taylor, a land tycoon who seemed to make Devon nervous. Brianna was to order lunch for them and then she was to leave for the day. Seemed Devon didn’t want Brianna around for the meeting. That’s what made the day even more hectic yet, the fact he was forcing her to leave early.
“Oh yes, that’s right,” she muttered to herself. “I forgot to tell the daycare.” She fumbled around in her purse for her phone and realized it wasn’t there. Wanting to curse, she heard a noise and looked up in time to see Devon walking in, his cell against his ear, obviously listening to someone. He winked at Brianna and walked into his office. Brianna quickly followed behind with the files he had requested the day before and a cup of coffee, freshly poured. She set both on his desk and motioned to him that she was going to leave the office for a moment. He looked confused and told whoever it was he had on the phone to wait for a moment.
“I’m sorry, Brianna, what’s wrong?”
“Oh nothing. I think I may have dropped my phone into Melinda’s backpack. I know I had it with me this morning and now I don’t. It’s the only explanation. I just need to go back down to the daycare and see. I’ll be right back.”
Devon was nodding even as his attention reverted back to his phone conversation. “No, Mark, that’s not what I want said,” he said into the phone. He sat and grabbed one of the files Brianna had brought in and opened it, rifled through it and started reciting numbers to whoever Mark was. Brianna turned and walked back out of the office. She quickly took the elevator down to the sixth floor, where the daycare resided, and was nearly knocked down by a delivery man rushing into the elevator.
“Shit!” He pushed Brianna and kept moving.
“Ouch!” Brianna fell back into the elevator, catching herself on the inside wall. Looking back up at the delivery man who was even now inside the elevator and punching the first floor button, not paying any attention to Brianna at all. The doors started to shut and Brianna cried out, jumping to stop them. “Hold on! Let me out! This is my floor!”
The man glared at Brianna. “Then get the fuck out!”
Shocked, Brianna just stood there and stared back at the man. She glanced down at the name on the shirt then focused back on the small, dark haired, delivery man, her heart racing. “This is absolutely uncalled for. I plan on reporting you, Tom. Immediately!” With that Brianna, stopped the doors from closing one more time and stomped out of the elevator. She turned back in time to see the ugly little man pulling out a cell phone before the doors closed again. He didn’t look distressed at all and obviously wasn’t going to apologize for his behavior like she expected after her declaration. How incredibly rude! Brianna harrumphed and headed toward the daycare vowing that she would indeed call that delivery company and complain heartily about their employee. We’ll see who gets the last word on this, Mr. Tom Delivery Guy. She had never encountered such a bad-mannered service person before. Except, now that she thought about it, she didn’t know the name of the delivery company. Was there one on that uniform? She searched her memory but it had all happened so fast. She shook her head, though, determined not to let it ruin her day and arrived at the door to the daycare. She stepped into a small office space and walked up to the large front desk.
It was one of the things she really liked about this daycare. The security. Walking into this front office you would never know it even was a daycare. It was totally separated away from the actual children, and the only way one could get past this checkpoint was to have the picture ID the daycare provided its clientele which put you on the list of people who were allowed to pick up children. And even then, you were not allowed into the space with the rest of the children. Normally a staff member would retrieve your child at the end of day. There was an observation gallery where a parent could see what was going on in the center and that could be done any time they were in operation. But again, only the ID badge allowed entrance into that room as well.
“Brianna! Weren’t you just here?”
“Hi Chelsea. Yes. But I can’t find my phone. It could have fallen into Melinda’s backpack. Could you check for me?” Brianna noticed the package sitting on the counter and realized the delivery man had the daycare as his destination. Good! She would be able to get the name of the service.
“Well, I guess that explains why you aren’t answering it.”
Brianna focused in on Chelsea. “You were trying to call? Is there something wrong?”
“No. Not at all. But this was just dropped off for Melinda. We do have a policy that we don’t allow items to be delivered to children here.”
A foreboding fell over Brianna. “What? That package was dropped here for Melinda? My Melinda?” Who would send something to Melinda here? Or anywhere, for that matter?
Chelsea, a concerned look on her face, grabbed the package off the counter and came around the front desk. She handed it to Brianna. “You didn’t know about this?”
Brianna took the box and looked at the address trying to discern who would have sent her daughter something. “No. Of course not. I would never allow this.” There was nothing identifying at all on the package. It was simply a brown craft box taped up with a typed label on the top. The label had Melinda’s name and the daycare name listed along with the address and that was it.
Brianna had absolutely no idea. Well, it would just be another reason to call this delivery company. Except, even that information appeared to be missing. “There’s only one way to find out.” Brianna set the box on the counter. “Do you have a scissor I can cut this tape with?”
Chelsea walked back around the counter, took a scissor out of a drawer and handed it to Brianna. “Do you think it’s wise to open this?”
“It’s the only way to find out what’s inside.” Brianna set the box on the counter and cut the tape, opening the box.
Chelsea was peering into the box from behind the counter and was the first to scream. She stumbled back and tripped over a chair, landing hard on the floor. Brianna screamed as well but more from the shock of Chelsea’s scream than from recognizing what it was that was in the box. Even so, she took two steps back herself.
Brianna was no fan of spiders, or of anything with more than four legs, for that matter. But this spider, the one inside the box, was a tarantula. Large, black and furry.
Even though at first glance Brianna knew that, she walked back up to the box and peered cautiously back down at the monstrous thing to make sure. “Chelsea, are you okay?” she asked without looking at the woman. Out of her periphery she could see Chelsea making it quickly back to her feet.
“Did it get out?” She was shouting, bringing other adults running. “Don’t let it get out of the box!”
“It’s harmless, Chelsea.”
“What do you mean, harmless? Those things can bite! If that thing gets loose, we’ll have to evacuate the building!”
“Chelsea, it’s fake. It’s not real.” Brianna reached down into the box and touched the thing. Made of very soft, pliable rubber, the thing not only looked creepy but felt creepy. She picked it up by one its hairy stretchy legs and held it up for Chelsea to see. All the other legs moved as if it were alive, but it was simply the nature of the rubber. Still it was incredibly eerie.
“Are you crazy? Don’t touch it!”
“Chelsea, for crying out loud, it’s not real.”
“It’s still disgusting. Put it away before the children see it.”
Brianna wanted to chuckle that Chelsea still stood six feet away from her, wringing her hands. Brianna dropped it back into the box and closed it up. “Chelsea, I need to know who delivered this. What company.”
“I…I don’t know. He just dropped it off. I didn’t even have to sign for it. It’s not on the box?”
“No. There’s nothing anywhere.”
Chelsea made her way back to the front of the desk. She looked at the box although she refused to touch it. “You’re right. What company doesn’t put its information on the box?’
“One that doesn’t exist, I would wager.”
“Chelsea, could you go and get Melinda for me? I don’t think I want her here today.”
Chelsea was motionless for a moment. Then her eyes got large. “Brianna! Is someone out to…to…”
“I don’t know. But I think I’m going to take Melinda back to my office, keep her close to me today. I don’t know who would do such a thing but they may try something else seeing how this little stunt failed.” However, in thinking about the spider angle, Brianna had a fairly good idea who that “someone” was. Other than Devon and the people from the aquarium, there was only one person who remotely had a chance to know that Melinda was deathly afraid of spiders and had an interest in using it to scare her.