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Seroje: The Seeing Eye

Seroje is a high-functioning autistic with a photographic memory. She has found a niche in mainstream society, hired as an investigator by OSLO. When quiet billionaire Craig Manor asks her out to dinner, she agrees, thinking to please her employers. When Craig becomes her next assignment after a failed attempt on his life, she even begins to enjoy his company. But why is she being followed? Why does she feel everyone is after her—including OSLO and Craig, the one man she thought she could trust?

Age Rating: 18+

 

Seroje: The Seeing Eye by SJ Wilke is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.

 


 

The app has received recognition from BBC, Forbes and The Guardian for being the hottest app for explosive new Mystery, Thriller & Suspense novels.
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Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

1

Summary

Seroje is a high-functioning autistic with a photographic memory. She has found a niche in mainstream society, hired as an investigator by OSLO. When quiet billionaire Craig Manor asks her out to dinner, she agrees, thinking to please her employers. When Craig becomes her next assignment after a failed attempt on his life, she even begins to enjoy his company. But why is she being followed? Why does she feel everyone is after her—including OSLO and Craig, the one man she thought she could trust?

Age Rating: 18+

Original Author: SJ Wilke

Seroje lifted the gun with both hands and aimed. Her eyes stared downward, jittering across the firing range. The gun was a large nine mm pistol, much larger than she preferred. The gun was a loaner.

“No, you need to aim. Look through the sights of the gun,” the instructor said, using his hand to lift her chin.

There was a single target, a black shadow representing the upper torso of a man in front of her. The target was ten yards away.

“I got it,” she said, wishing the man would step back and stop touching her. She needed to get this over with since she didn’t have much time.

Her eyes dropped again.

“Eyes upward. Trigger finger alongside the gun until you are ready to fire,” the instructor said, touching her hand to point out how he wanted her to hold the gun.

“Back away,” Seroje said in a terse voice. “I can’t fire with you right there. You’re right in the path of the shell case ejection.”

“You need to get your form correct,” he said.

“Back away,” Seroje said in a low whisper. Neither of them was wearing hearing protection as the gun had a silencer.

The instructor sighed and took three steps back.

Seroje jittered her eyes, calculating the distance. She raised the gun just a bit and fired twice.

The shots hit the target in the heart region. She changed her aim and rapidly fired, alternating between the center of the eyes and the heart until she’d fired the remaining fifteen shots.

She knew the gun was empty.

Seroje ejected the gun magazine and cocked the gun, showing there was no other shell loaded as that was the protocol taught by her instructor. She set the gun down on the table.

The instructor remained silent.

“I only needed to fire one full magazine, right?” Seroje said. “To get my quota in for the week for work?”

“Yeah,” the man said in a quiet voice, staring at the target.

Seroje pressed the button and the target came to her. She pulled the paper target off the clips that held it and walked out of the firing range.

Her shift at work started in an hour and she didn’t have much time to go home and change.

***

Seroje sat on a tan sofa in the second-floor lounge of a large hotel in the middle of Annapolis, Maryland.

She was wearing a gray skirt and suit jacket with a white blouse. Her laptop was positioned on her lap. Beside her, she had a stack of folders and her phone.

She was masquerading as an office worker catching up on work.

There were two wooden end tables at each end of the sofa containing lamps with swirling black designs. Two tan overstuffed chairs, facing each other, squared off the furnishings of the lounge.

Off to her left was a large, sweeping staircase that went down to the main lobby. There were large open hallways on her right and left, encircling the entire hotel.

Looking down over the railing, one could see the entire lobby from a large section of the hallway.

Voices and laughter from people in the hotel bar and the lobby rose up, reaching her in the lounge.

The only conversation she was able to register and understand was the one man with a deep voice who talked non-stop about his dogs. Seroje figured he was in the lobby near the stairs.

She found him annoying.

All these details flooded Seroje’s senses. Her hazel eyes, unfocused and jittery, captured every detail around her like a camera filming, no matter how unfocused she kept her eyes.

Her ears captured every sound; the two women walking, the man walking behind them, and the people down below. Her nose caught the whiff of someone’s aftershave. The sofa was hard.

The two women power-walked by. As soon as Seroje became aware of them, she realized the second floor was used like a walking track for those in the hotel, especially after dark.

She gave no indication that she was aware of them. They were of no concern to her.

Seroje curled some of her shoulder-length hair, strawberry blond, over her ear, out of her face. She wanted another soda.

The time was ten forty-five p.m.

The man walking down the hall sat in the chair to her right, making a phone call. She guessed he was in his late thirties.

He had some gray in his brown hair. His eyes were brown. His dark suit was expensive and well-tailored. He seemed toned and fit.

His phone call appeared to be a conference call with his people about the customer that was to have met him there and never showed.

Seroje gave no indication that she was aware of him. He also was of no concern to her.

The man talking about his dogs must have walked away. She no longer heard him and now all the conversations in the lobby and bar were nothing but background static, easy for her to tune out.

Two male hotel employees, dressed smartly in their red uniforms, trotted up the stairs with purpose.

As soon as they were far enough away from the stairs, they stopped, pulling out cigarettes. Smoking was prohibited in the hotel. They used a soda can for their ashes.

Seroje typed on her laptop, sending an alert to the manager of the hotel. She’d been hired by the hotel in a sting operation to catch employees misbehaving.

This was her third night there. She’d been sitting in different lounges, but this one seemed to be the right one since she was seeing the first instances of inappropriate behavior.

She typed in her report a description of the employees for the manager’s sake. Her memory photographed them and she’d remember them forever.

The manager of the hotel, Patel, dressed also in a dark well-fitting suit, walked up the stairs, looking stern. He slid his phone into a pocket, looking as if he’d just read the alert from her.

His dark eyes spied the two employees and he approached them.

The two employees flinched, putting out their cigarettes in the soda can, starting with their excuses. Patel hushed them and walked them away toward a back staircase.

They’d be fired, Seroje knew.

The man in the chair ended his call and made another. This call sounded like he was breaking up with a girlfriend.

“Look, I can’t make you happy and you’re not making me happy,” the man said in a quiet voice. He sat very still as he listened on his phone for almost ten minutes.

“You’re still not making me happy. I think that’s all we can do. Bye.”

Seroje now knew for a fact that he’d just broken up with a girlfriend.

Another male hotel employee walked through the lounge followed by a maid. The maid looked sheepish, keeping her head down.

Seroje remembered having seen the male employee earlier; his name tag read Chris. She didn’t know the maid’s name. Her ears picked up a door closing.

Seroje knew the area. The two had gone into a maintenance closet. She sent an alert to Patel.

A woman walked through the lounge hiding a dog in her coat. Pets were not allowed in the hotel.

Seroje guessed it was a Bichon Frise by the fur on the woman’s coat. A furry white head poking out of the coat confirmed her suspicions.

Seroje was here to spy on employees, not guests. She ignored the woman and the dog. The woman trotted down the steps to the lobby.

Two other male employees appeared, coming from the back staircase. They stopped to look around the area.

Seroje read their lips, despite the fact that they were speaking in Spanish. They were looking for the other two guys to go out back and smoke a joint.

She needed names before she could alert Patel.

“Excuse me,” she said. “Could I get another soda?” She held up her empty soda can.

The two employees turned, taking a couple of steps toward her. Now she could read their name tags.

“Of course,” one of the employees said, and they both left, heading down the back staircase.

Seroje sent their names on to Patel with an explanation and added this information into her report.

She didn’t add anything about her request for a soda or about her perception that she’d not get one from either of the two.

The man in the chair stared at his phone, looking perturbed. She figured it was due to the customer who’d not appeared rather than the girlfriend, since he had seemed rather relieved during that call to end the relationship.

His phone rang and he answered the call.

Patel walked up the stairs, looking peeved as he headed toward the closet. A door opened down the hall and she knew he was interrupting the pair. Hushed voices from that area reached her.

Patel stood there for some time. The couple was hastily dressing, Seroje figured.

Then Patel escorted them away, also toward the back staircase. The employee, Chris, was still tucking in a shirt. Both employees looked a little disheveled.

The two women power-walkers passed again talking about husbands who couldn’t find leftovers in the fridge and had to be shown that the food was right in front of their faces.

The woman speaking was emphasizing her words with flailing hands as if this was the most important issue in her life.

The man’s phone call was from his son. By the responses from the man, his son was asking for money. The man told him what he’d pay for and no more.

Apparently, that was not what the son wanted to hear and was making it quite clear to his father.

The man held the phone away from his ear as his son ranted and raved as if getting money from his father was a god-given right.

“I can’t hear you. I have a bad connection,” the man said toward his phone, since he’d not brought the phone back toward his ear or mouth. “Bad connection.”

The man ended the call with a touch of his finger.

Three other women strolled through the area, using the second floor like a walking track.

They were carrying sweaters since the weather was cooler in the evening, so Seroje knew these ladies were not hotel guests. They also were of no concern to her.

Another male employee strolled through and Seroje held up her soda can.

Hola, Dr. Pepper frio?” she said, using Spanish this time as both a test to see how the employee responded and to see if that would get her a soda.

The man nodded, grabbing her can and tossing it in a trash can on his way back down to the lobby.

The man in the chair was texting on his phone.

Seroje sent a message to Patel about the employee not putting the can in a recycle bin. Petty, but that was what the hotel wanted to know, each infraction no matter how small.

The man in the chair was now watching her, to her chagrin.

“Are you a hotel detective?” he said, once the employee was out of sight. He spoke in a very low voice, but Seroje heard him as well as read his lips, despite her appearance of watching her laptop screen.

She didn’t answer him, annoyed that he’d even spoken to her.

“What time do you get off work?” he said as he glanced at his phone and typed another text, apparently in response to one he’d received.

“Excuse me?” she said in a low voice, without moving her eyes or head.

“You heard me,” he said in just as low a voice and with a slight smile, just raising the corners of his mouth.

The first two power-walkers passed by again but were talking in quieter voices. Seroje was unable to hear what they said.

“Craig Manor is the name,” Craig said after texting someone again.

Seroje typed his name into her laptop while she continued to look as if she was working and was ignoring him. She had access through her company to a website for looking people up.

“You’ve been married twice. And you just broke up with a girlfriend. Rebounding?” she said in a quiet voice, still without moving or looking up from her laptop, hoping that would shut him up and make him leave.

He shrugged, looking unconcerned.

“Two speeding tickets in the last two years. Wealthy, but you pay your taxes. Own a number of businesses around the world,” she said.

“What else,” he said, showing no sign he was surprised she knew this much.

“You had a customer stand you up tonight, and your son doesn’t know how to handle his finances,” she said, still annoyed, but she kept her voice even.

“Could hardly call her a girlfriend,” Craig said with an off-handed smile and a small wave of his hand.

The hotel employee returned, trotting up the stairs with a can of soda.

Numero de habitacion, por favor,” he said, continuing in Spanish according to hotel rules because that is how she’d started the conversation. He opened the can of soda for her.

Uno dos ocho,” she said, taking the soda. “Gracias.

He nodded and left.

It was a real room number that she and Patel agreed to use since there was not a guest in that room.

She was thirsty and drank almost half the can.

“Are you going straight home to bed or having supper?” Craig said.

“Why is that important?” she said, not understanding, as she passed some quiet fizzy burps.

“If you’re going to supper, I’d ask if I could join you.”

She didn’t answer because she didn’t know how to respond to such a bold request.

“I’d guess midnight,” Craig said. “Less than an hour. What’s your name?”

“Seroje,” she said, thinking about her company.

OSLO was a watchdog agency that kept such a low profile that no one seemed to know about it. No one even seemed to know what OSLO stood for.

The company also watchdogged their employees, and Seroje had become a blip on their radar.

She was a loner, not dating anyone or socializing. They wanted healthy, well-adjusted employees, so they sent her to a socializing match-up holiday in the Caribbean for practice.

For two weeks, she’d sat on the beach, not meeting a soul. But that was probably because everyone else was clubbing, then sleeping most of the day away.

Now, here she was back in her hometown, working, and some guy wanted to pick her up.

She thought about accepting to make her company happy and to leave her alone.

“Unusual name,” he said.

“My mom touted she came from gypsy heritage in Europe. Said the name meant ‘all-seeing eye’ in some Slavic language. But it translates roughly to ‘seeing eye’ in Danish.

“I pronounce the J. The Danes don’t,” she said in an even voice as if she stated this information all the time.

“Do you work here?” he said.

“At the moment,” she said, still watching her computer screen.

Two male employees that she saw before on previous nights walked through the lounge. They stared at Seroje and Craig.

Patel came panting up the stairs after them. The two employees ran, looking guilty. Seroje hadn’t sent any alerts on them and wondered what they’d been doing. Or perhaps, not been doing.

“I think they’re getting wind of you,” Craig said in a low voice.

“They probably think it’s you,” she said in the same quiet voice.

Seroje pulled up more information on Craig. His son was named David, eighteen, and was enrolled in his first year of college at the University of Maryland.

Craig looked like he was a quiet billionaire, not making waves. People knew about him, but he was rarely in the news. He could walk the streets and not be recognized. She’d heard of his companies. He seemed to be doing well.

“What do you like to drink?” Craig asked.

Seroje raised her can and took another drink.

“I meant in the way of wine, beer, liquors.”

“Tea, soda, or water,” she said. “That’s it.”

“Food allergies?” he said with a slight smile.

“No, I eat what I want,” she said, wondering where this line of conversation was going.

She added a few more notes to the report she’d been working on, intending to send it to her boss at the end of the evening. Her next two days were already booked and she knew she’d not be back here.

“What do you do in your spare time?”

“Stare at walls,” she said as she stared at the carpet, which had a hideous red and black pattern. There was also a small piece of paper almost in the middle of the floor that no one had picked up.

Her eyes shifted to the wall because the carpet pattern was disturbing. The paper on the floor was just as disturbing.

She’d rather go home, but this was an opportunity she had to think about. Her opinion was growing more favorable because they sat in silence for the next fifteen minutes.

Seroje liked silence. She could sit with someone who was silent.

The walkers must have finished or were escorted out. No one had passed by in some time now.

“I’d have thought your son would call you back after losing the connection,” she said, practicing her small talk, which she was lousy at.

When she worked, like she was tonight, she pretended to be another person, which helped her function better when she interacted with people.

“He knows me and once my hearing goes, I can’t hear my phone ring,” Craig said.

Seroje smiled.

“Young and stupid, but not that stupid,” she said, moving her gaze back to her laptop, already not knowing where to go with the conversation.

“I wish he’d get over the stupid, but that can take a while,” Craig said.

“So how old are you?” she asked, but she already knew because the information she’d pulled up included his birth date.

“Thirty-seven. And you?”

“Twenty-three.”

“Only a fourteen-year difference,” he said. “We could still make it to our fiftieth wedding anniversary if I make it to my late eighties.”

She smiled, but held in her laugh, noting that he was good with numbers.

Patel walked slowly up the stairs, looking at her.

“Oh, miss. This was left for you at the lobby. That will be all,” he said, handing her an envelope. He left, back down to the lobby, looking exhausted. The piece of paper was still on the floor.

The time was eleven fifty-seven.

Seroje sent her report, waiting to make sure her email finished sending before closing her laptop.

She slid the laptop into her backpack along with her folders, which were empty, and the envelope. She slipped her phone into her jacket pocket.

“Are we ready to go, dear?” she said to him, pretending she already knew him. “I’m starved.”

He rose with her, and she was pleased to find him taller than she. She was five foot eight and calculated he had to be a little over six feet.

Seroje paused to kneel and pick up the paper, throwing it in the trash, then throwing away her now empty soda can into a recycle bin.

She walked down the stairs with him as if they were a couple leaving the hotel.

 

Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

2

The hotel lights lit up the area and the time didn’t feel as late as it was. There were four black iron benches with wooden seats spread out along the front of the hotel.

Four Naval officers, laughing and talking with loud voices, stood by the bench closest to the hotel entrance.

Two other couples strolled by, coming from the parking garage. They looked as if they’d returned from dinner somewhere. Both women wore dresses and the men wore suits.

Seroje figured they were married couples since they appeared comfortable in their silence.

The woman who’d been through the lounge with the dog was chasing and calling for her dog.

The dog had no leash and was running through the flowers and shrubs of the landscaping, ignoring its owner.

Seroje thought she heard the woman call the dog Ruffruff, making it sound as if the woman was imitating a dog.

“So where are you taking me on a Tuesday night right at midnight that could possibly impress me,” she said, thinking that would be a good line in a movie and that’s what her character would say.

“I have an idea,” he said, leading her toward the parking garage where Seroje had her own car parked.

The walk across the area reminded her of how annoying her backpack was.

“I’m close to my own car. May I put my backpack away?” she said as they entered the first level of the garage.

“Certainly,” Craig said, waving a hand for her to lead the way as he followed her.

Seroje didn’t like that she had to show him her car, but she didn’t want to carry the backpack. She hated carrying anything and didn’t even carry a purse.

Her car was an older four-door sedan, dark blue. She unlocked her car with a key and tossed her backpack into the back on the floor. There it would be out of sight. She locked her car with her key.

Craig tapped his keys and four cars away from them a car flashed its lights and beeped. He led the way.

“BMW i8,” she said as he opened the door for her. The doors opened up like wings, intriguing her. He showed a little surprise that she knew the model of the car.

The car was bright red with silver trim below the door. This was the two-door sports car model with the six-digit price tag.

Seroje also knew it was a custom color because red wasn’t a color option.

She knew every single BMW model. She’d read up on all car models to help her identify them for her job. However, cars didn’t impress her since they were only a mode of transportation.

“You a car fanatic?” he asked, getting behind the wheel.

“No,” she said as she fastened her seat belt, keeping her eyes on the dash in front of her. She liked her car only because it got her where she needed to go. Having it serviced was a nightmare.

“No wonder you’ve gotten speeding tickets,” she said as he started the car. The car was quiet, but the power of the engine was obvious.

Craig smiled, navigating out of the garage in a civilized manner. The four Naval officers paused in their talking to stare as the car passed them.

Craig handled the car with ease, navigating some turns, before hitting a light. He turned again onto a main thoroughfare.

“The harbor. I don’t know of any restaurants around there that are open this late on a weekday,” she said, using her mental map of the city.

“No,” he said with a smile. “No restaurants.”

Traffic was light. Seroje found the drive pleasant because Craig didn’t engage her in any conversation. She had an idea of where he was headed.

He soon pulled into the marina parking lot, confirming her guess, and into a parking space with his company’s name on it.

Seroje had been here before but never registered that there was reserved parking down here other than for the handicapped.

The parking lot was empty except for Craig’s car and a goose standing in a puddle of water.

Seroje didn’t wait for him to open her door, opening it herself. She stepped out of the car, letting the salty, fishy air surround her.

There was a faint cool breeze coming off the water. She closed the door behind her.

The marina was well lit, even at this hour, and she liked the fact that there was no one there except for one man, dressed in gray slacks and a tidy white shirt.

He was standing by a large blue and white speedboat and appeared to be waiting for them.

“This way,” Craig said, leading her toward the speedboat. His car beeped behind him as he locked it, causing the goose to sidestep into a deeper part of its puddle.

“Evening, sir,” the man by the boat said, helping them aboard.

“Just the two of us,” Craig said.

“Yes, sir,” the man said. The man removed the mooring ropes, then stepped up by the controls. The motor purred as the boat slid away from the dock.

The wind was cool and noticeable since they sat in the front of the boat. Seroje was glad she had her suit jacket on.

She watched ahead over the dark water without really looking as she tried to allow herself to phase out. Water was always soothing to her; however, the movement of the boat was disturbing and not to her liking.

Her mind tried to rethink where he was taking her, but soon it was obvious.

“That’s a big boat,” she said, looking up at the huge yacht they were aiming for. It was well lit up.

“Yes,” Craig said.

The speedboat pulled up alongside the yacht where there was a platform with stairs leading up to a deck. A crew member helped her aboard and directed her up the stairs.

“This way,” Craig said as he caught up with her. He led her to an upper deck. They had an unblocked view of the harbor.

Seroje found herself exposed on all four sides, surrounded by the harbor. She had to count boats to ease her discomfort until the table in the middle of the deck grabbed her attention.

The table was covered with a white tablecloth and was set for two. There was a candle in the middle of the table providing the only light other than that from the harbor around them.

“You didn’t even get an answer from me, and you had this set up,” she said, not showing her surprise.

“Either way, I was going to dine,” he said. “It was just a matter of whether I was alone or not.”

“That’s what you were texting.”

“You’re very observant,” he said.

“That’s what I do for a living,” she said. “If you want to keep a secret from me then you better not let me see, hear, feel, or smell it.”

He held her chair like a gentleman as she sat.

He took his suit coat off, placing it on the back of his chair. The cool breeze felt at the marina wasn’t noticeable here.

“Iced tea,” he said, indicating the drinks on the table as he sat, loosening his tie.

She sipped to see if she wanted to add sugar.

“Your cook or one of your staff is from India,” she said, savoring the tea, which needed no sugar.

“Cook is,” he said with a nod and a smile.

Seroje’s discomfort vanished, and she decided the place was rather peaceful considering they were in the middle of the harbor surrounded by a large city. The location had a surreal feeling.

“Not bad,” she said after ten minutes of silence. “I guess I’m impressed.”

Seroje was impressed that he’d arranged all this in such a short time and before he even knew she’d come.

With most guys, they’d still be sitting in the hotel trying to chat her up, and she’d be heading for the door as soon as she could.

Her eyes jittered across the horizon, counting boats now for something to do as she adjusted to her surroundings.

“She sits out here most of the time. I rent it out,” Craig said, indicating the yacht. “Too big for me, but the charities I support love having their galas here, which makes it a tough decision to get rid of it.”

A man looking as if he’d just arrived from India appeared with a cart filled with covered plates. He uncovered the plates and rich aromas surrounded them.

“I will take over, thank you, Ranveer. That is all we need,” Craig said. The man gave a bow and left. “One of my favorite cooks. Excellent employee. Loves the quiet life and loves to cook.”

Seroje’s nose inhaled the scent of spices, identifying each one.

“I love curry,” she said in a soft voice almost to herself, noting the scent of coconut milk as well, another of her favorites.

Craig began to name the dishes, but she waved her hand to stop him.

“My nose knows,” she said. “A little bit of everything, please.”

He dished a small serving of everything for them both.

Seroje savored each dish, noting the spices used in each. Curry was the most prevalent combination of spices.

She ate more than normal, then placed her napkin, folded, onto the plate to signal she was done. Craig laid his napkin over his plate.

The dishes sat and no one bothered to collect them once they were finished. Seroje sipped her tea, unsure of what to do or say, feeling very full.

Sirens sounded in the distance, then faded. All was quiet except for the low din of a living city. The yacht moved very little in the water, much to Seroje’s relief.

“Parents alive or dead?” Craig said in a soft voice as she watched the horizon.

She noted Craig watching her as if there was nothing else around them, and he seemed relaxed.

“I think alive,” Seroje said. “Don’t have much to do with them. They divorced in my teen years. Neither one lives around here.”

“My mother died a few years ago of cancer and my dad is fifty-something, now running after girls in Italy,” Craig said.

Seroje smiled.

“He has relatives there,” she said, but she was guessing.

“Why should I tell you anything? You already know it,” he said.

“Sometimes I learn something,” she said, glad of her accurate guess.

The wind changed, carrying fewer smells of the city and more salt and fish. A couple of boats puttered out of their moorings and out toward the end of the harbor, adding diesel fuel to the mix.

The sounds of the water hitting the yacht increased, caused by the waves from the passing boats, then lulled. The yacht still moved very little.

“Born here or moved here?”

“Born here, I think,” Seroje said, not really sure of the answer, never having given it much thought. She’d always lived in the area as long as she could remember.

“I was born in Italy, small town on the eastern coast, then promptly transported to here,” Craig said. “I grew up in Annapolis.”

Seroje nodded, but she had no idea what Italy was about. She could think of no questions to ask him, and they sat in a long silence, which she didn’t mind and he didn’t seem to mind either.

“Do you dance?” Craig said, after some time.

“D—do I what?” she said with some apprehension, somewhat startled by the conversation topic.

“Do you like to dance?” he said, rephrasing his question.

“I don’t dance,” she said.

“Do you like music?”

“Yes,” she said.

“What kind?” he said, sipping the last of his iced tea.

“Music. Nice beat. Good music,” she said, unsure of what he meant.

“Jazz? New Age? Contemporary? Bluegrass?” he said, giving her options.

The lights of the city seemed to sparkle as she thought, needing a good ten minutes before she could answer.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I just listen to it.”

He smiled, and they sat in silence again.

This silence was long enough that she felt she could relax. He seemed comfortable with the silence, unlike most people.

Craig also seemed quite content to watch her, although she’d call it outright staring.

“Will you be at the hotel tomorrow?” he said after some time.

“No,” she said.

“Another hotel?”

“No.”

Craig shifted in his seat but was still watching her.

“Do you have to go to work today?” she said, seeing the faint pink in the sky, wondering how long he intended to sit there, staring.

“Yes,” he said. “Why?”

“It’s almost dawn. You’ll not get much sleep,” she said, glancing at him.

“What about you?”

“I have to be in a park about one p.m. to paint, so I have the time to nap,” she said, not saying that she didn’t need much sleep.

“You enjoy painting?” he said.

“I don’t know. Never done it.”

She resumed watching the red of dawn streak across the sky and watching him out of the corner of her eye watching her.

The city woke with the sounds of garbage trucks, causing Seroje to think of a funny line.

“They’re playing our song. How romantic,” Seroje said with a laugh as her eyes kept watching the horizon.

Craig chuckled.

“Four a.m. like clockwork,” he said. “Most days.”

Lights lit up on a distant boat, one of the larger ones. The harbor was coming alive. The noise of the city was increasing as if someone was turning up the volume.

“What time do you get off work tomorrow? I mean today?” he said. “Perhaps we can start earlier.”

“I am done at three,” she said.

“I can pick you up at four if that works. And where do I pick you up at?”

“I’ll be at Quiet Waters Park. There’s a little mobile bistro that operates there not too far from a little turnabout. I’ll be waiting there,” she said.

“I know where the park is,” he said. “May I have your phone number?”

She didn’t answer, and they sat in silence for ten more minutes. That was the one thing she hated doing, giving out her phone number.

“May I take you home now?” Craig said.

Seroje felt relief that he wasn’t going to pursue the phone number issue.

“No, but you can take me back to the parking garage so I can pick up my car,” she said, standing.

“My dear,” he said, standing putting out his hand.

She hesitated, unsure of the gesture.

He took a step closer to her and took her hand. Then he leaned in, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek. He led her back down to the speedboat and helped her in.

Seroje sat at the front of the boat, waiting, while Craig left to find the guy to drive them back to the dock.

The speedboat moved more in the water than the yacht, much to her irritation. She preferred the yacht and wished she could have waited there.

Seroje counted the time to distract herself. Craig was gone twenty minutes before returning with the boat driver.

The driver stifled a yawn as he guided the speedboat away from the yacht and toward the marina.

Early morning was much cooler than when they’d come. Seroje buttoned up her jacket.

Craig stuffed his tie in a pocket and then put his suit coat back on. The driver looked cold in his thin shirt.

The goose was gone from the parking lot, but there were two other cars parked. Craig’s car beeped and flashed, and he opened the door for her.

Seroje’s irritation from the boat subsided since the ride in his car back to hers was in silence. Seroje liked that.

“Good night,” he said, making no other move to touch her.

“Good morning,” she said, glad to be getting back to her car.

 

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