The loud crack of my stapler hitting the floor startled me out of my work and re-acquainted me with my surroundings. I was in my office. It was dark out. Halloween night, 2004, a Sunday night. I had no kids and no holiday related plans. I was there on a Sunday because I had a Motion to file in the Freeman case, and with trial a week away, I had a deadline to meet. I had never been in the office that late before. My day usually ended at 5:30 pm, and if I was on the phone when the 5:30 bell chimed, I hung up the phone abruptly and left. I was not used to the stillness, the quiet. I looked at my watch: 5:45. The only sound was the buzzing of the hallway fluorescents, which also provided the only light besides my own office light. All the other offices were vacant. Those hallways so often filled with life seemed exceptionally empty that night.
I buried my nose back in the..uhm, computer monitor and went back to work, and I don’t know how long I was like that before there was a sound to my left, right next to me. I turned my head, and as my eyes adjusted back to fluorescent, I saw a man sitting by my desk. He was tall, gangly, and to picture his face, imaging Benedict Cumberbatch. (Well, he’s in everything else, why can’t he be in my story?)
He stared at me without expression. Understand, you couldn’t just walk into that office. You had to be buzzed in or have an access card. I had never seen this Cumberbatchian person before.
I spoke first. “Can I help you?”
Instead of answering, he simply nodded towards the window behind me. My window looked out onto Walnut St., which on Halloween night, was all but dead.
“You may be interested to know,” he barely whispered, “that the last two occupants of this office jumped out that window.”
His words didn’t concern me–my office was on the first floor–but I turned my head involuntarily, just for a moment. Across the street, by an abandoned news kiosk, there stood another tall man. He was bearded and wore a dark suit, but I couldn’t make out much about him. From that distance, I could make out that he appeared to be staring at me, his head cocked at an impossible angle as if listening to a secret his shoulder was telling.
I turned my head back, but Cumberbatch was gone…without a sound. I leapt up and ran out of my office, down the hall, turned left, down some more, and into the lobby. There was no sign of him.
I returned to my office, and was about to sit down when I glanced out the window again. The man in the dark suit had crossed the street halfway, but was again standing still, staring at me, head cocked. I could now see his face, his features twisted as if furious. He looked a bit like Stephen Merchant, but with dark hair, a dark beard, narrow eyes…wait, he didn’t look anything like Stephen Merchant. Forget I mentioned him.
I tried to return to work and reignited my computer monitor, but there was no way I could concentrate, so I looked behind me again…and the man was closer still, on my side of the street, in the same posture as before.
Since I was beginning to feel some apprehension, I bolted from my office a second time and walked briskly down the hallway again. At the end of the hallway, the light was on in my boss’ office. I had not heard him come in; the light was off a few minutes ago when I charged down the hallway. But I was grateful for the company. I also saw an opportunity to earn some brownie points for working so late. My head scrambled for a legal question as I entered his office.
“Hey, Bill, in Freeman, can I file a Mo–” There was no one in the office.
..and at Bill’s window stood the man in the dark suit, his nose practically against the windowpane, staring at me angrily. I fell back against the wall, breathless, with my hand over my mouth as he pointed a bony finger at me.
“Phillips,” he croaked, in a voice that seemed to come from all around. I couldn’t get out a response, and he continued. ”Phillips, I know you have it. I want it now! Give it to me, Michael Phillips!”
Thoughts raced in my head, but only one coalesced into a word I barely breathed out. “Michael,” I squeaked.
“Give it to me now!”
Still a squeak. “Uhm, sorry, but…did you say Michael?” No answer. Just the furious stare. “I’m Bobby, not MIchael.”
He looked puzzled. ”You lie!”
“No, we look a lot alike.” I was starting to get my breath back. ”I’m his little brother, Bobby. His office is down the street.”
“Bobby?” He croaked again.
I approached the window and pointed. ”Down the street, you see the Royal Building, with the red awning? Right by 13th. To the left, below the awning…that’s his office. Look, his light’s on. You can still catch him.”
He gave me an irritated look, and slowly began to shamble away towards my older brother’s office. I went back to my office and slumped into my chair, facing the window. I figured I get back to work, but concentration was at this point impossible. I was done for the day. I shut off my computer, and went home.
I never saw my brother again…not until that Sunday, at least, when I went to his house to watch the Eagles game.
Everybody, let’s not forget the true spirit of Halloween. It’s not about costumes or candy. It’s about being scared. Happy Halloween.