"Hey, it’s way past 6 PM, I'm going home now. How about you?" a plump middle-aged man asked James as he stood up from his office chair. He was pulling up his pants while tucking his shirt in.
"Go ahead, Ben. I think I'll stay. Mr. Walter wants this PowerPoint presentation by morning," James replied.
“That slave driver! He could have done it by himself, or he should have let his secretary do that. What is that presentation for anyway?" Ben was now standing behind James with his arms akimbo.
“Marketing strategy. He's going to present this in the executive meeting tomorrow," James paused from his typing and shook his hands a little. "His secretary has something to do. I think she'll be working overtime as well."
Ben smiled naughtily while loosening his necktie. “I see... So it's not going to be a lonely night after all. You have a pretty voluptuous secretary as company. Hey, this is your chance. Everyone in the department has the feeling she likes you."
"You're crazy! I'm a married man, remember? My playing days are over. Don't influence me with your philandering antics," James said, laughing.
"Okay, okay... I'd better go now or my wife will certainly nag me again."
“See you tomorrow then, bro."
“By the way, Old man Larry says there are ghosts in this office."
“The only ghost I'll see would be yours if you don't stop bothering me. So get out of here before I break your neck."
When Ben left, James continued with his work until he finished all the slides for the presentation. He thought about the secretary who was still in the office. He had always entertained dirty thoughts about this woman. Curvaceous, voluptuous, and an alluring face - there are all the ingredients of his object of desire.
Since he came to the company six months ago, he noticed how this secretary stole glances at him, how she shied away whenever they would talk or be near each other. In his experience, these are signs that a woman likes a man. No female who had crossed his path and manifested the symptoms could ever escape him. But this was before he married Jane.
On the night before their wedding, he swore to Jane with his whole heart that no woman's charm could ever break his fidelity to her. She believed him even though she knew how many young women had fallen prey to his deceitful charms. And indeed for almost two years now, James had remained faithful to her... except in his thoughts.
Tonight, he thought, should be his rest... rest from the boredom of married life. 'I'm still a man, and a man has to give in once in a while. I deserve a break.'
They were the only ones in that office - James, the secretary, and Old man Larry.
"James, I suppose I can begin mopping your area. I have waited long enough already..."
The janitor felt some strange vibrations as he came nearer to James. He sensed something negative was about to happen to this guy.
“Where are you going, James? Are you not going home yet?"
“Why does it concern you? Just do your job, and don't mind me," James uttered with a little irritation.
Old man Larry was a well-known weirdo in this building. He would claim he could see spirits and predict people's future by reading their palms. Some ladies in the company believed him though, and they would ask him to read their palms. Others would avoid having conversations with him for fear of hearing scary tales.
James was now approaching the boss's office. Beside its doorway was the secretary's area.
"Hi Trina! I've finished the slide presentation Sir Walter asked me to do. I sent it to you on e-mail," James said to the busy lady.
"Oh hi! Good for you then. I'm just about to open my inbox," Trina said, glancing at the man beside her desk, then went back to her computer. "Yes, it's here now." She moved and clicked the mouse to save the file to her disk.
"Aren't you hungry yet? You've been working late. I think you should take a break," James uttered.
"Not really, I took a heavy snack this afternoon," she replied shyly but did not mind the interruption.
"But that was this afternoon, it's already evening," James insisted. "Listen, I know this restaurant down the street and they have this Eat-All-You-Can promo. Come with me... my treat!"
"Hmmn... Well, I am a little bit hungry. And besides, I'm just reading my e-mails now. Okay then, let's go!"
Trina stood up from her desk and went with James. She was wearing a gray blazer and skirt. James slightly looked at her legs. She was wearing black stockings so James felt a little disappointed. He had hoped her legs were bare. And then they went out of the office...
As they were walking along the corridor toward the elevator, Larry was standing by looking at them. His eyes seemed more focused on James. The couple stopped for a moment.
"What are you looking at, Old man?" James said with annoyance.
"Son, I advise you to go home now," the old man spoke with concern. His eyes were staring at James's left arm.
"Mind your own business, old man!" replied James angrily. “Come on Trina, let's go."
"I'm warning you both, you two have to part ways. A disturbed spirit is following you. You're just inviting bad luck by going together." The Janitor looked at Trina. James pulled his lady officemate, trying to forbid her from hearing the janitor. But he did not realize Trina was a fan of Old man Larry's psychic abilities.
"Wait James, let's see what he's got to say," Trina said while countering James's pull. “So what is this spirit you're talking about?"
"Well this one is different. It's not like those that have been following you before. It's a human spirit but dark like a shadow with smoke coming from its figure. It seems to be holding a knife in its right hand. This spirit is not really after you, Trina. It's trying to hold your friend's arm, but it can't get a good grip of it."
James interrupted the talk and pulled Trina toward the elevator. Old man Larry followed the couple with a troubled stare as the elevator closed before his clairvoyant eyes.
Inside the elevator, Trina shared to James all the things Old man Larry had been telling her - that she had spirit admirers. Some followed her all the way to her house and some just waited for her to arrive in the office. They were harmless though. They had even sometimes protected her. James never believed in ghosts, but he listened very intently to Trina's stories as a charming prince listening to his damsel's woes.
Down the building, James and Trina chanced upon the security guard sitting in the receptionist's desk. They waved at the guard signaling that they were leaving the building. The guard thought it peculiar that he smelled a foul odor of burnt flesh when the couple passed by. As they went out of the glass door, the guard glimpsed a shadowy human figure clutching the man's left arm. Smoke was rising from its head. Dismissing it as a mere illusion, he closed his eyes and the shadowy form disappeared, and so did the couple.
The two officemates ate, drank and told their tales to each other until almost midnight, until they found a way how to end their night...
Inside the motel room, the unruly couple found themselves undressing each other. They kissed, touched, and caressed. The room was air-conditioned and it had a large bed; beside it were a desk and chair, and a huge oval mirror. When both of them almost had their clothes removed, James glanced upon the mirror. He saw something that made him duck out of the bed.
"What's the matter? Something wrong?" the puzzled Trina asked his partner.
"I think I saw something there in the mirror," James retorted, gasping.
“So what was it that you saw?"
"It looks like a shadow, almost in figure with smoke rising from it. It was holding a knife and was about to stab me in the back. So I jerked away." James' lust for Trina disappeared at once because of the vision. He realized it was past midnight, so he told Trina it was time for him to go home.
There were a lot of people along the street where James was headed. Two fire trucks had blocked both sides of the road, so he was not able to drive through. He got out of his car and passed through a bunch of onlookers.
A fireman blocked him. "Excuse me, but I live along that area, I need to see what's happening," yelled James to the fireman. But he did not seem to hear him.A policeman who happened to be his neighbor saw him from the crowd. "Let him through Sanchez!" the policeman said while clasping the fireman's shoulder. James was able to get through the cordon accompanied by the policeman.
"James, around 6:30 PM, the neighbors heard an explosion from your house. Luckily, the firefighters were able to contain the blaze. We suspect it was the tank that caused the bang," the policeman spoke with regret.
"Oh no, my house! My wife, Eliza... Is she okay?" The policeman did not want him to see the corpse but James was uncontrollably insistent. Inside the ambulance, James, still dazed in shock, saw the remains of his spouse, burned beyond recognition. Some smoke was still rising from her head, and clutched in her right hand was the knife he saw in the oval mirror of the motel room.