The firm of Underberg & Lamm, P.C. occupied the twentieth floor of a building in midtown. From a partner’s corner office one could see the park behind the library, where in the summer the grassy expanse was daily colonized by readers and sunbathers and others who didn’t need to be anywhere else. It was no longer summer, but it wasn’t yet winter enough for the temporary ice skating rink to go up. It was merely fall: gray and crisp.
The twentieth floor of the building in midtown near the park behind the library was not very large, though it was sufficient to serve the personnel and accoutrements of the firm, which was small. A single corridor ran through the center of the regular, rectangular space, with the elevator opening directly onto the corridor and opposite the small reception area. The lawyers’ individual offices were all on one side of the corridor — the reception side; the paralegals’ and secretaries’ cubicles were on the other. Each restroom was on the elevator side as well, though with the elevator between them, for some reason. So it was that when Mason Blank — not a partner of the firm, just an associate of the partners, albeit their senior associate — exited the men’s room to return to his office, past the reception area, about two-thirds of the way to the other end of the corridor, he saw a woman — tall, black — who was not an employee of the firm walking toward him. They passed in the corridor. Mason Blank stepped into his office, sat in his chair, then stood and left his office again, walking to the reception desk.
“Chevelle,” he asked the firm’s receptionist, a voluptuous young woman who was pleasant enough but whose habit of including an unnecessary “actually” in almost everything she told anyone made it plain to Mason that her continued employment was due more to décolletage than demeanor, “who was that woman?”