The elevator doors opened, and he let her go first and followed behind her. She headed out toward the mall with him catching up and walking beside her, stride for stride. Most of the people were gone now --- there were a few older people walking their routes around the perimeter of the mall to keep in shape --- and some of the businesses were shutting down.
"So how's the life of an accountant, anyway?" he asked. "Do you like it? I once considered doing that, but I think I'm more of a salesman type of a person. I have to keep myself connected with people."
"It's okay." She didn't see salesman as people types, but what does she know? "I'm an accountant. I suppose the stereotype fits in my case. I've never considered myself much of a people person. Or, for that matter, much of a family person. My personality is not like that. I like the notion of tallying numbers and the accurate reporting of them. I'm not opposed to trying to ferret out mistakes or overcoming the tendency of businessmen to try to overstate their net worth or hide their income for nefarious reasons. I also like keeping track of the funding and expenditures of exempt organizations, governmental entities, and, at times, even estates and trusts."
They rounded the corner of the bookstore --- it was closed now, so there was no cutting through it, like Mary Lou usually did. They headed down the hall toward the food court. Hardly anyone was out and about. A lot of the businesses were dark, their security gates down.
"You do any reading?" Bob asked, spurred on Mary Lou guessed by the books on display in the window of the bookstore. "Anything besides accounting books?" he laughed.
"Oh yeah, I do. How about you?"
"Yeah, I like easy reading. For a while, I read everything John Grisham wrote. I'm not much of a fan of Stephen King, though. You?"
"I like mysteries. Sue Grafton. Robert B. Parker. A few of Dean Koontz's books. Others too. Joyce Carol Oates if I'm feeling more intellectual, which isn't that often."
The food court was coming into view. Mary Lou scanned it quickly with her eyes. The big-screen TV kept blaring away, even though nobody was there watching it.
She didn't see the young woman anywhere. They walked on and Mary Lou glanced over into an alcove and there they were, both the older and younger women, eating some food on two trays from one of the fast food restaurants, talking with each other without the stress and strain their faces and eyes that had been there earlier. They clearly looked happier than they had when she had seen them earlier that evening. Something must've happened to them; they must've gotten some bad news or something.
Bob asked me if I had read Life of Pi, and I told him I hadn't, but that everybody had told me I should read it. I asked him what it was about and he gave me an elevator summary. We continued on, walking all the way through the mall and out the doors onto City Creek Boulevard.
"Do you mind if we go to Club Orion?" Bob asked.
"That's fine," Mary Lou answered. She didn't really care where they went. She had never been to Club Orion, although she had heard of it. She wasn't a social individual, she didn't like to drink, and she only got out occasionally and then usually only when she had to in order to meet the expectations of somebody else, like now. She was a homebody. It was as simple as that. In fact, she wasn't sure why she was accompanying Bob to Club Orion now, other than he seemed to need her to go with him. He hadn't said so in so many words, but there was something in his demeanor that made her think he really needed her there to talk to. It probably wasn't a good idea, especially because it might be his father's case she would be working on with Goodrich, but she had accepted his invitation and they were on their way. Wasn't he married now? Hadn't she heard that? What the hell was she doing? What the hell was he?
It was chilly out. The day had been beautiful, the dark blue autumn sky, cloudless, a gentle wind stirring up a few fallen leaves that hadn't been raked up and hauled off.
"It's just up here," Bob said, "on the right, in University Excelsior Hotel."
"Good," she said with a shiver, "I'm getting cold."
"Well, they know how to fix that up," he said and opened the door for her, and she passed through it. He led the way to a table; she set her purse and the folder she had brought with her to take home down on it. He helped her with her jacket, putting it on the chair back and pulling the chair out for her to sit down.
"So what are you working on?" he asked. "Anything interesting?"
She laughed, thinking how ironic it would be if she ended up working with Goodrich on Senator Orr. "Well, right now I'm helping manage an audit on one of the big public utilities in town --- can't say which one, for privacy's sake --- and trying to keep up with a few smaller clients, who always seem to need some direction relative to income taxes. One client's being audited by the wonderful Internal Revenue Service, and I have to represent them. The usual stuff. What about you?"
"Unfortunately, these days in my business there's been a big drop-off in the number of clients we are getting."
That didn't seem like a surprise with the economy in a shambles.
"And the firm has had to lay off a lot of people. I've had to tell a few people in my crew they were being laid off. It's kind of hard to do that, telling guys and gals whose families rely on them to bring home the bacon that they are being laid off.
"Also, the firm has cut my pay and, at the same time, expected me to work more hours. It's this whole damned economy thing. Damn Republicans! They ran the economy into the ground, them and their greedy constituency on Wall Street and in the towers of corporate self-indulgence in the financial sectors back east."
"Sounds like you're doing quite well for yourself, though, with that firm. I think we are the same age, aren't we? And whether we are or not, it seems to me like you've done quite well to have your own crew already, in a management position already. Not bad."
"It's more luck than anything else."