The man is already striding towards me, one hand up and waving back and forth, as if there’s any chance I would miss him. “Barry! Yoohoo! Hey, what’s happening, mister early lunch?”
I feel my hands tense, clenching. No. Stay calm. I can handle Gossip Gary.
“Oh, just feeling a little under the weather,” I reply quickly, stepping forward to cut the distance between us. The man’s still loud, but maybe this will bring him from deafening down to just piercing. “Think I might work from home this afternoon.”
“Under the weather? I don’t see any rain clouds over ya!” This is accompanied with a braying guffaw. I want to knock his throat in. No, stay calm, keep it cool. Think sick thoughts.
Shrug. “Well, you know there’s a bug going around,” I say. I need to throw this dog off my scent. A thought occurs, a possible way out. “I mean, you heard about the ebola, didn’t you?”
“Oh, sure, I heard all about it! What exactly are you talking about?” He has no idea. He can’t admit ignorance, however. He’s hooked.
Lower my voice. Look conspiratorial. Play this right. “It’s all over Africa, you know,” I let on. “Spreading around. Even the doctors are sick – and they’re coming back here! Bringing it with them! There might be an epidemic here, but all the news outlets want to keep it quiet!”
Oh, there’s the light in his eyes. “But don’t tell anyone about it,” I go on. Hook is set; time to reel in. “We don’t want a panic, right? People rushing the stores, riots, all of that.” Tap nose. Too much? Nah, just enough. “Know what I mean?”
The man is nodding – too fast. He is caught, snared in my net. Hook? Net? Whatever, I don’t fish. He’s already itching to dash off and spread the news. “Remember, keep it quiet, Gary,” I add, and then move past him.
I don’t think he even notices me leaving.
One down, and the exit’s ahead. Go, go, go! I put on a burst of speed. One turn. Two turns. Just one more…
“Oh, Barry. It’s terrible, isn’t it?”
To be continued!