Vera ventured toward the back of the restaurant, where the décor gradually evolved from cliché bistro fare to sleek and sophisticated walls and tiles as she made her way down the basement steps.
Where was she going?
Finally at the bottom of the staircase, she looked around and found herself in an office lobby environment, with a comfy couch and desk area, where a dense black back of a chair faced her.
“I’m Bruce Kitchen, by the way,” said the mystery man she had followed. “Let me just get some things before we get started.” He disappeared down another hallway. Vera took a seat on the couch, crossing her legs after sinking into the cushion.
The dense black chair-back spun around and revealed another man—this one younger and attractive. And you could tell he knew he was attractive. “Tall, dark, and handsome” came to mind, but Vera dismissed the notion for its lack of originality.
“He’s kind of like Alice’s white ferret or whatever, isn’t he?” he said, shuffling some paperwork. His tone had a touch of unnecessary resentment.
“Excuse me?” said Vera.
“Alice in Wonderland. Alice followed that white ferret down the ferret hole.”
“You mean rabbit.”
“Right.” He stopped to think about it. “You sure it wasn’t ferret?” He looked at her out of the corner of his eyes.
Bruce returned with nothing in his hands, making Vera wonder why he had left in the first place.
“Hi, there, Vera. I see you’ve met Cole.” Bruce gestured to the man in the chair.
Cole, thought Vera. A man who apparently was never read to as a kid.
“Won’t you join me in this conference room?”
Vera was astounded by the layers and levels to this restaurant.
The conference room looked like any conference room you’d see in an office building, but with a huge mural on the walls: big fake windows looking out over a big fake sunny city. The design was so realistic that Vera had to do a double take before taking a seat.
“Isn’t it a beautiful day in the city, Vera?” he said with a chuckle.
“Things are not always what they seem. Remember that.”
Vera started to wonder whether this is where she was going to die.
“So what interested you in my ad?” he said.
I was drawn to the word ‘library’ actually. Do you need someone to archive or catalog materials?”
“Oh no. Nothing like that. We need characters.”
Vera waited for more explanation, but it never came.
“I’m sorry?” she said, hoping to gain some clarity.
“Loan Some is a company that loans out people for events. Funerals, weddings, birthdays, you name it.”
Suddenly this place started to make sense to Vera. “Loaning” out people. A roundabout way of saying what Julia Roberts was in Pretty Woman. Sure, Vera knew she had the red hair, curvy build, and frankly—the desperation—but she was not going to go down THAT rabbit hole.
“I think you have the wrong girl.” She got up from the conference room seat.
“What’s your favorite book?” Bruce asked.
Favorite book? Vera had to think.