We had the smallest office in the community work space we shared with three other local start-ups. It was my turn to prep the office for the day. We slept little and worked a lot, but the weekend was sacred, so we all went home. Under a bright full moon I fumble just enough with the keys to notice that there was an open window in the building adjacent to ours. I ignored it but I did notice the slight irritation of chlorine in my nostrils. I ignored that too, and while opening the door noticed that it was heavier than usual.
I pushed the door open expecting to find something blocking it, but there was nothing. I checked the hook on the back of the door and there it was, a winter coat. It was a heavy-looking neon orange winter coat. Even in the Florida winter such a coat would be out-of-place. The slight hint of chlorine was more pronounced, but I ignored it.
We called our building the gym, since it was just a large industrial building divided into work spaces. In a previous incarnation it was a dance studio. The floor was made of wonderful material and felt great under foot, so most of us walked around bare footed. I ignored my intuition, took off my shoe and placed them on the shoe rack. The shoe rack was the water cooler of our office. We all wore shoes made by the Shoe Company. It was the first local start-up to make it big and we were all proud to show off our latest wears.
We were proud to share space with them. They had long pasted the start-up phase, but they still had that feel. Most mornings I would go visit their sector to see what cool designs they had on display. Mike, one of the co-founders was always first in the office and we would share coffee and catch-up. He still slept in his office many nights and worked like a dog. Recently he talked about slowing down. He had gotten engaged and it was time to play more than he had been.
Mike and I were the coffee people and I was going to miss him discovering exotic blends. We had a deal with the coffee importer on the second floor. We rigged a shoot that delivered the latest coffee to us each morning. We had a coffee treat everyday. Coffee from the heaven we called it. As per our arrangement a new flavor was awaiting me. I did not hear anyone in the office but assumed that the heavy coat belonged to Mike. I setup the brew and decide to check Mike’s office and tease him about him having a winter coat in the Sunshine State.
As I opened Mike’s office that subtle scent of chlorine became a dense fog clogging my eyes and nose. I called for Mike but there was no response. As I caught my bearing I noticed that the office was a wreck. It was as if a hurricane had passed through. There was no sign of Mike, but I did notice several brown spots on the floor.
The six desks in the office had there draws out and the pictures from the wall were on the floor. The chlorine was choking and so I opened the windows. I hurried out of the office to avoid being overwhelmed by the smell.
I ran to the front door and opened it to get some airflow. On the way out I noticed that the other spaces looked just as I had left them last Friday. No one was to have been here over the weekend. My office was the only space containing any valuables so I went to check our safe. All I could think of was that we had been robed, but why the heavy chlorine smell. Once into my space I noticed it was essentially untouched. I called Mike’s number and I heard a phone ringing in the office. I followed the ringing to the community restroom and noticed his phone was on the window ledge. Mike was nowhere to be found and it would be another two hours before anyone else was expected in the office.
The state of Mike’s office, the smell of chlorine and Mike’s phone being in the bathroom was all suspect. You, Arnold, was the first person I called.