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“Who ever said it was a fire in the first place?” questioned a man in a suede blazer.

evacuation,” chimed in a woman with a thick streak of gray cutting across her otherwise black hair.

and I realized I’d forgotten she was with me. Before we knew it, we were on Market, looking in the direction of our office even though we couldn’t see it anymore.

us after a little while, and we quizzed them for more information. There was no one there from our floor. The entire Data Compilation department was absent.

reliable face. We all believed him. “I didn’t have time to grab my purse. Do you

think it’s okay I left it?” asked a woman wearing a giant, sparkling spider broach on her jacket lapel.

concierge said, a woman with a nose so small, I often wondered how she could breathe. “He said he was there to work on the pipes. I let him up to the eighteenth floor.”

eighteenth floor was Data Compilation. “Did he tell you what company he was with?”

of tools,” the concierge said, looking to the man in the pig tie for support, but he just looked at the ground.

see that she looked more afraid than the concierge. Her hair was shaking, but she wasn’t chewing anything. I couldn’t understand the look on her face.

“What did he look like?” Ceci asked, and I could

“You know, average. Maybe about this tall,” she said, her hand a flat plank above her head. “Kind of heavy. Balding. He had a tattoo.”

inside of her own forearm. “Yeah, of a mermaid or something. Huge

Ceci’s eyes got huge. She scared me. “Here?” she pointed to the white flesh on the

boobs,” the concierge said, seeming relieved to share “I don’t know,” the concierge said defensively. “I didn’t think … I mean, he had a whole bag We all got quiet and looked at her. The

asked the lawyer in the tan suit. The concierge looked cornered. The man in the tan suit looked comfortable for the first time since leaving the building.

“This guy came to the security counter,” the “It’s definitely a bomb,” confirmed a man with a Another flood of employees streamed toward “We saw the Bomb Squad,” Ceci contributed, “They told us to file out according to fire

the burden of knowledge. But I couldn’t figure out what Ceci thought she knew. That didn’t stop her from turning her huge eyes on me, like I’d done something wrong.

face didn’t move. I finally got it. Gary was real. I’d assumed he was made up, too. It’s not like any of this was real.

asked, and Ceci’s eyes closed a little. She looked over her shoulder at the building we couldn’t see.

fast, like at the end of a breath. “Who?” I asked, knowing it was the wrong

“Some guy from Audit.” I looked at her brittle hair. It had stopped

“I told him I slept with someone else,” she said

question. But it was the first one that came out. “She looked down at my feet, then at hers.

trembling. “We don’t have an Audit department,” I said.

me. Her eyes were cloudy. “I made it up.” We looked back in the direction of the office

and watched another round of evacuees scuttle toward us. Our floor was still missing.

like some heroine intent on sacrificing herself for a greater cause. She charged through the crowd of oncoming evacuees, a brave salmon cutting through the upstream.

know how to finish the thought. It finally came to me, hours later, when they took Gary away in handcuffs, and I took Ceci back to her empty house, shushing away the could-haves, assuring her that no one was hurt, that the Data Compilation team was perfectly fine. They’d just been tied up. No one was actually hurt. None of it was real. The bomb was a fake. I tucked her into bed and made her take a Valium. I told her I’d stay the night in the guest room, but when she passed out, I left.

would never have done something like that. And I realized why I was so thankful. Ethan “Thank God,” I thought to myself, but I didn’t “I’ve got to go tell them,” she said, sounding “Yeah,” Ceci said, and she looked back up at “Nah,” I tried to dismiss it. “Why would he?” I

“What?” I asked. I was feeling defensive now. “Gary,” she hissed, like I should have known. I looked at her for more explanation, but her


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