Maria drove her car full of teens into the huge parking lot of Palmer Company to drop Connor and Daisy Ray off.
“Catch ya later, man,” Connor said as he helped Daisy out of the overly packed vehicle.
“Will we see you at the Boardwalk?” Andy asked hopefully from the car window.
“Doubt it, we’ll be much later.”
“Next time then,” Andy returned disappointedly.
“What are you sounding so disappointed for? You got me to run with!” Mark hollered from the back seat.
“I’ll whoop your guitar play ’in butt, Mark,” Andy returned.
“Ha! That’s only if you can catch me. I can beat you if I want!”
“Yea, Mark can beat you if he wants!” Susan shouted out loyally.
“I can beat Andy too, if I’m feel ’in like it,” Jeremiah added in.
“I hear ya, man. My money’s on Jeremiah!” Jason chuckled.
“Hey, put-her-there-man.” Jeremiah held his arm up for a high five in the packed back seat of Maria’s car, and Jason gave him the slap of agreement.
“What is this? Hate on Andy day? None of you can beat me so take a chill pill, man! What are you two do ’in in Maria’s car anyway?” Andy pulled the visor mirror down to get a good look at Jason and Jeremiah behind him.
“Dad took the keys to my car because I didn’t come home until 2am last night.” Jeremiah chuckled lightly, a bit embarrassed that he got caught. “So… that means I’m with you guys until I get my keys back!” He reached up and slapped Andy’s arm in a friendly manner.
“No you’re not. Where’s Jason’s car? Ride with him!”
“Jason was with me last night. We’re both carless now buddy,” Jeremiah returned while Jason jumped in and added, “But we’re not Maria-less, we can hang with you guys and ya know… practice our run ’in!”
“Yea, practice our run ’in. We thought we’d lay off the Jack Daniels for a while and run with you guys instead.” Jeremiah grinned proudly at his declaration.
“You can run with us any time you want.” The idea that someone might drop Jack to run with them made Maria very happy. She would definitely encourage it.
Andy looked pleadingly back out the window at Connor. “Don’t leave me alone with this bunch of crazy delinquents, man.”
“Can’t help ya this time. Dad got me this job and all… I really need to start work ’in, ya know?” Connor and Daisy laughed at Andy’s forlorn face then waved goodbye.
Maria made a U-turn and headed for the exit. Connor chuckled at how low the back bumper was to the ground due to the amount of people in her small car. “I hope she doesn’t hit any potholes,” he chuckled again.
Connor and Daisy turned to look in the direction of the Palmer Company buildings.
“So this was Mr. Davis Bailey’s work place,” Daisy thought to herself. She had heard Connor talk about Palmer Co. from time to time but this was the first time she’d ever seen it. It looked like a place that Davis Bailey would be found though.
Davis Bailey was an expert machinist. He had big shoulders that looked like they carried heavy loads on a daily basis. His hair was a dirty blonde color mixed with grey. His eyes were that same ocean gray color that Connor’s eyes were, but unlike Connor, Davis Bailey had a wrinkled worn look to his face. Maybe it was from squinting too much at his welding work, or maybe it was the heartache that he never quite got over when his wife, Deborah Bailey, died. Maybe it was his age, but you could see in his face the knowledge of love, the knowledge of life and the knowledge of loss all rolled up into one.
His only outgoing trait was that he was a bit competitive when it came to his bowling. He was on a bowling team, and he took his bowling very seriously. He took it just as seriously as Connor took his running.
Davis had a good friend named George Palmer. They were inseparable friends and bowling partners. George was the owner of Palmer Co. In Davis’ younger days he’d owned a large part of Palmer Company right along with George. However, Davis sold it all to George when his wife got sick and the hospital bills piled up. These were the two men that came out to greet Connor and Daisy when they were dropped off in front of the office building.
“Hey, Dad. Hey, George.”
“Hey there son. How was school?”
“Good, I guess.”
“Hey, baby Daisy! How’s our girl doing?” Davis and George boomed in unison.
“I’m fine thanks.”
“Let’s show you two around. Now Daisy, are you coming here to help out or are you coming to tag along behind our boy, Connor here?” George asked with a twinkle in his eye.
“I came to help Connor, of course.”
George then turned his smiling face towards Connor, “Good call, Connor. Already delegating I see. That shows a lot of leadership or maybe you’re putting your work off on your gal?” George chuckled. “Which is it my man?”
“Daisy can vacuum inside the offices.” He looked down at his girl with a grin, “She’s pretty slow with chores. I bet I finish outside before she finishes inside. I will probably end up doing both.” Connor’s eyes gave a little sparkle when he made that last comment. He knew she would not like him calling her slow. He secretly thought it would speed her up to mention it.
Daisy crossed her arms with irritation. “I’ll finish my own work in good time. You don’t have to worry about doing my work, Connor Bailey.”
Feeling successful in his little trick, he happily threw his arm around his irritated girlfriend. “Well, show us around George.”
“Okay then.” George turned and led them for a short walk behind the front office building to a building in back.
“Now this is the most important Palmer building. All the magic happens right here.” They walked into a large open space covered by a heavy tin roof. The roof was very high so as not to hold the heat of the machinery inside, but the building was still hot. There were huge columns that held up the roof, running down the center of the building.
The building was full of rows of machines with men hovering over them wearing face gear, denim overalls and gloves. It appeared that the men were closing up shop for the day.
There was also a large shower room adjacent to the work building. It had several showers, sinks and toilet stalls. The men always showered before leaving work. There were washing machines and driers against the wall for the workmen’s personal use as well.
George and Davis took them from one end of the building to the other showing each machine and explaining its function.
Daisy and Connor listened intently and examined each machine like they were walking through a museum with a guide.
“When you come in here you will have to stop the fans in order to sweep up. You’ll get hot. If you feel too hot, go sit in the lounge for a while.”
“How do I turn off the fans?” Connor asked.
George then walked up to one of the columns. It had a lot of switches on it. “This is where you can turn the fans on and off from. You don’t need to touch the fans. Just come here and flip these switches right here.” George flipped the switches and all the fans stopped. The room was suddenly silent.
“So Connor, why don’t you get started in here, and I will take Daisy Ray back inside the office building and show her where the vacuum cleaner is.” George smiled and handed Connor an amazingly large push broom.
When Daisy and George walked off, Davis turned to Connor and added, “You know Connor, at 3 o’clock we start closing up shop and taking showers. By 5 everyone is completely gone from all the buildings. It would be good for you to walk over to the office building and check on Daisy from time to time. You can drink water at the cooler and just check if anyone is around besides her. We have had vandalism after hours before.”
“Really?” Connor said surprised. “This doesn’t really look like a place to rob, to me.”
“Maybe, maybe not, but still Connor… you should check on Daisy every now and then. Both of you carry your cell phones in your pocket when you work so she can call you if she sees anyone wandering around.” Then Davis took out a huge key chain. He took off eight keys and put them on a new ring. “You will be the one to lock up everything when you’re done. Don’t leave anything open. Turn off all the air conditioners and fans on your way out, ” Davis explained.
Davis had another thought that made him smile, “And Connor, there are cameras everywhere in the office building and also out here. They’re on all the time. If you and Daisy get any ideas, you know…umm…well I don’t know what you two do in your free time, but if you two get to kiss ’in or anything in the offices it will end up on the surveillance cameras. So don’t do anything like that around here. Okay?” Davis patted his son on the back and gave a little chuckle.
“Thanks for the tip off,” Connor chuckled with his Dad.
Davis continued, “Every New Year when we have our big New Year’s party George picks the funniest surveillance tapes and plays them in front of everybody. I’m betting Daisy probably would not like it if she were on any of those tapes?” Davis eyed his son seriously.
“No, Daisy wouldn’t like it” Connor sobered up at that thought. “I will tell her about the cameras later. Thanks Dad.” Connor began the tedious chore of sweeping.
“I’m going to the bowling alley with George so you and Daisy Ray can use my car to get home.”
Davis disappeared to take a shower then left with George.
Connor swept…once it hit 5:15 he decided to take a break and check on Daisy.
When he entered the office building he could hear the whirring of the vacuum cleaner. Following the noise down the hall he called out, “Daisy, which room are you in?”
“I’m in here,” she yelled over the vacuum. “I’m in the last room!”
When Connor finally got to the last room he saw her under one of the office computer tables with the hose attachment part of the vacuum.
“What are you doing?” Connor asked curiously as he leaned under the table to get a better look.
Daisy looked up at Connor from under the table. She had lint balls in her hair and her cheeks were all red from crawling around on her hands and knees. “Well, I don’t think it has been vacuumed under these tables for a long time. It’s really dirty. It’s also hard to reach because of all the computer wires.” She paused then her eyes narrowed, “You aren’t finished yet are you! Because I am not being slow at all. I am being diligent. There’s a difference you know,” she said defensively.
Connor started laughing. “You are too slow! But no, I’m not finished yet. I just came in to check on you and also to get some water. Where’s the water cooler?” Connor poked her in the ribs a few times to make her jump.
She did jump, yelling, “Quit it! Connor!” as she grabbed his hand to make him stop.
Connor playfully pulled her out from under the table in one quick motion saying, “Come on out of there and show me. You look like you could use some water too.”
Daisy brushed the hair out of her face. “Yea, I guess I could use some water. I saw the water cooler in the middle room with the vending machines back that way.” She was still holding his hand so she just pulled him along in the right direction.
The middle room behind the reception desk had vending machines and a water cooler with paper cups stacked on top. Connor drank two cups of water then looked at the drinks in coke machine.
He picked a drink and turned to Daisy, “Hey babe, do you want one?”
Daisy was combing her fingers through her hair trying to get some of the lint out.
“Sure. Give me a peach tea,” she answered absentmindedly as she inspected her hair some more.
Connor got her drink and sat down beside her. He gulped a large portion of his drink down then leaned way back in his chair. He spread his arms out across the backs of the chairs next to him and stretched out his sore legs. He shut his eyes for a moment and rested.
Daisy sat back next to him and drank her tea quietly then she asked, “How is it going out there? How far a long are you?”
He opened one eye in her direction. “Are you still worried I’m gonna beat you?”
“No, I’m not worried that you’re gonna beat me.” She rolled her eyes back at him. “You just look hot and I’m wondering how you’re doing that’s all,” she sighed.
Connor put his hand on her head and rubbed her hair around a bit. “So you’re worried about me are you? Do I really look that hot?” He smiled. He actually liked it that she was worrying about him. He shut his eyes again.
“Never mind, Connor. You obviously cannot answer the question.” She sighed again and drank her drink.
“It’s so freak ’in hot out there. I don’t know how my Dad has worked out there all these years.”
“I think he has the fans on when he’s out there. Don’t ya think so?”
“But still… it’s November. It’s supposed to be cooling off,” Connor spoke quietly as he playfully ran his hand through Daisy’s messy hair.
She giggled a bit when his hand got stuck. “Don’t you dare call me velcro-head.”
He smiled at the memory of the old nickname but remained silent as she loosened his hand from her hair. That had been one of Andy’s old nicknames for her, not his.
“And your legs… are they still hurt ’in from the highway 74 run?”
He smiled again at her concern for him. “Not as bad as yesterday, babe. I’m okay,” he paused and sat up in his chair looking around the room, “Oh yea, I want to tell you something.”
“What are you looking for?” Daisy asked curiously.
Connor got up and walked around the room investigating every corner. He came back to his spot and sat down next to Daisy. He put his arm around her shoulder and whispered in her ear. “Dad told me that all the rooms in these buildings have surveillance cameras.” He laughed lightly as he whispered the rest of his Dad’s message in her ear. It was not a loud laugh but a soft whisper type laugh that tickled her ear and made Daisy lean her head closer and laugh with him.
“Your Dad said that?” she giggled back.
“Yea, and do you know what else he said? He said that every year at the big New Year’s party George picks the funniest surveillance tapes to play for the entire staff. So Dad says, don’t do anything in these buildings that might end up being played at the News Year’s party. Can you believe that? George is crazy, man.” Connor’s laughing slowed a bit as Daisy looked up at him and smiled. He was caught off guard by her warm smile and her closeness. He quieted down, enjoying her smile for a moment.
“Are there any cameras in here?”
Connor put his mouth back to her ear, “Yea, right in the corner that faces the coke machines. I don’t think we can be seen sitting right here though. Do you see it up in the corner over there?” Connor didn’t point at it but just nodding his head slightly in the direction he meant then he looked back at her again. “I’m not really sure how surveillance cameras work though. Do they pick up our talking too, or do they only video what is seen in the room?” Connor asked softly.
“I think they can pick up sound in the room if it’s loud enough,” Daisy guessed.
“Well,” he continued softly, “Maybe it doesn’t really matter.” He put a hand back on her head and gently combed through her hair with his fingers, catching a few more lint balls as he did so.
Daisy sat back and looked at the angle of the camera wondering if the spot they were sitting really and truly was out of range of the cameras.
“Well, let’s get back to work, Daisy girl.”