It was the revolving door of the building, that room. Everyone went straight through it without much thought. They moved along without getting caught up in someone else’s business. Working reception in this hotel was awful…She couldn’t understand why she had thought this would be fun when she took the job. Maybe she’d thought it would be like those movies where all the interesting things happened in the fancy reception rooms. Nothing like that happened here though. There wasn’t even a decent adultery scandal in progress, or a rich lady with her driver. It was a quiet little business hotel, rich as hell, but still with nothing of note to speak of. Until today.
Her job didn’t require much focus. There wasn’t much to do but people watch. So when she saw the man pacing in and out of the room, it caught her eye. She saw him pass off something to another fancy-suited man who was here regularly. She didn’t know their names, but she knew their faces. And their shoes. The businessmen around here, for all their conformity, seemed pretty individualistic with their patent-leather shoes.
They were the dullest of the dull when it came to the characters around here. For them to be doing anything even remotely worth her attention was strange enough as it was. For it to be suspicious on top of that, well that was a huge surprise.
Soon she realized that they were watching her too. She was used to eyes on her, but this was different. Usually she got dirty looks for being the only person in the room not wearing some form of gray, black or navy. She preferred purples and teals and, god forbid, magentas. They weren’t big fans of colors here… but this was not a glare of contempt. This had a weariness, a curiosity to it…she didn’t like this at all.
She also didn’t like it when one of the men came up to the desk. He looked at her nervously, his dark eyes wandering everywhere but never meeting hers, his dirty blonde bangs attempting to conceal his eyes’ mistakes. He wrung his hands once and threw an only somewhat discreet glance at his accomplice.
He was clean-shaven, in his late twenties, maybe early thirties, and rather adorable for someone in obvious discomfort. He had none of the shifty mannerisms of the usual suspected miscreants, the squinty eyes, the tapping fingers, and the constant glare at the world. He even had a little color in his tie, turquoise and blue stripes mixed in with the black. Finally, he pulled a small box out of his pocket and raised his head to speak.
“Could you hold onto this until I call for it? You do that here right?”
She laughed a little. His nerves did not fit the uptight suit he was wearing. It looked totally wrong and utterly ridiculous.
“Of course I can do that. Do you need any kind of special security?”
He shook his head vigorously.
“No, if you just keep it right at your desk even, that’s good enough.” She smiled politely at his sputtered words.
“Alright then sir, I’ll take good care of it. Just call for it, and it’ll be returned to you safe and sound.” He beamed at her, sighing with relief.
“Thank you. Have a good day Miss,” he mumbled, and then scurried away, tossed a nod at his compatriot as he shuffled out the door. She shook her head, staring at the box in her hand. This was by far the most interesting day she’d had since she’d started here.
For the rest of the day, she kept glancing at the box. It was utterly nondescript. There was nothing on it, no patterns, no sketchy markings, nothing to make it seem worth the secrecy. It was just a simple gray box, like all the simple gray people that stayed here. She spent too much of her time that day dreaming up possible contents, something huge, some information leak, a treasure map, a backroom deal, something to do with the president or the mafia or…it went on and on like that for hours.
Finally, at the end of the day, she pulled the box out of her desk drawer and eased the lid off. She was shocked in the most mundane sense of the word. Socks. The box held three pairs of socks. Bright, colorful, crazy socks, but just socks. She was thoroughly disappointed. There was no spy story, no intrigue, and no excitement, just footwear. She sighed morosely, shoved all her things into her purse and headed out, hating her job even more now that it had dashed her last hope on a thrill.
The next day she reached into the same drawer, hoping beyond hope that the socks wouldn’t be there. She slowly pulled off the top, her eyes squeezed shut, and she peeked out of one eye as she felt the lid come free. There were no socks. They were gone, but there was still something inside, a small slip of paper. Her face scrunched in confusion as she pulled it out and unfolded it.
“Thanks for that.” Once again, she was disappointed. Except there was something else written on the paper, ten digits. She laughed, and slowly slipped the note into her pocket. Maybe she didn’t hate this job, but she was certainly going to lose it if her boss heard about this…