Chapter 16: Patric’s Six Expectations

“I’m sorry, Janet. You know I’d help if I could.” Patric hung up with the Vice President’s assistant and glanced at the clock. Dr. Desmon was running late. Today of all days.

Turning to his new undersecretary, he said, “Look, Lana, the first Thursday in January’s a bad day to start up here. We call it Report Day. So here’s a head’s-up—just do what you’re told and stay out of Dr. Desmon’s way. In fact, it would be best for all concerned if she doesn’t even notice you’re here. She doesn’t need any grief from new secretaries today.”

“What’s the Report?”

He scowled at her. “Lesson Number One—curiosity kills the cat. Everything on this floor is need-to-know. Ask too many questions or poke your nose around areas you’re not cleared for, and you’ll find yourself downstairs being interviewed by Dr. Sondem as a potential traitor.”

Her eyes widened. “I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t mean anything. I wanted to work up here to help us get back home. I’d never do anything to jeopardize that.”

“If that’s true, we’ll get along fine. But all you need to know about the Report is that it will make Dr. Moden mad—it always does. The doc has to step in to calm him down because she’s the only one who can. In other words, she’s a hero today, so treat her like it.”

When she nodded understanding, her apparent willingness to please induced him to soften his tone. Lana was a good friend of his sister. He really should try to make this work out, or he’d catch it at home. “Look, I know you’ve heard Dr. Desmon’s impossible to please. That’s what all her ex-secretaries told me when I started up here. It’s not true, though. Actually, she’s very easy and predictable once you figure a few things out, like her priorities and the Six Expectations. The most important thing to know is that her number one priority is getting us back to the Island. She’ll listen to any idea that will help move us toward that goal, without regard for proper channels or different social ranks or anything else.”

Lana grabbed a steno pad and scribbled some shorthand. “And what are the Six Expectations?”

“You expect me to just hand you something that took me the better part of a decade to figure out?”

“Well, it would keep things running more smoothly, wouldn’t it?”

Patric chuckled. Seemed she’d already figured out his weak spot. “All right, I’ll tell you. One: Obey immediately and without question. Two: Don’t make mistakes. Three: Pay proper respect. Four: Keep things tidy. Five: Keep the company’s mission first in your priorities, as it is in hers. Six: Anticipate her needs. That one’s mostly my job, but it could become yours when I’m not here.”

She finished jotting them down. “Thank you, sir.”

“Patric,” called Iona, another undersecretary. “This call’s for you. The Vice President.”

“Uh-oh.” He pasted on a smile and picked up the phone. “Good morning, sir!”

A gruff voice trying to be ingratiating answered. “Janet tells me we have a problem, Patric. Is there no way I can have lunch with Dr. Desmon? I know it’s unexpected, but I really need to see her, and I’m only in town for the day.”

“Well, sir, as I told Janet, Dr. Desmon is free for dinner. The rest of her day is booked solid.”

“Who’s her lunch with? Someone more important than the Vice President of the United States?”

Patric didn’t answer. He’d never divulge the doc’s engagements, and the VP wouldn’t consider the Saudi Crown Prince more important than him anyway.

“I see,” grumbled the VP. “Hold on.”

While muffled voices exchanged words on the other end, Patric inventoried the first aid supplies in his bottom drawer.

“All right,” the VP said. “I’ll rearrange my schedule. We’ll do dinner.”

“Good,” Patric said brightly. “I’m glad we could work something out, sir. I know she’ll look forward to seeing you.”

The VP grumbled something and hung up.

Chuckling, Patric set the phone in its place. Humans—they all thought they were so important.

“Lana,” he called, “go down to Employee Health and get me another portable ice pack, some hydrogen peroxide, and some ibuprofen. Oh, and some antacid. Then go to the cafeteria and get me a bucket of crushed ice.”

She jotted down the items. “Will Employee Health give them to me, just like that?”

He frowned. “Not a good start, Lana. Expectation Number One—obey immediately and without question—remember?”

“I’m sorry, sir.” She started toward the VIP elevator.

“No, not that one! That’s only for Drs. Moden, Desmon, and Sondem. Expectation Number Three—pay proper respect.”

She flushed and mumbled an apology. As she headed down the stairs, the guard at the doc’s door looked at his buzzing cell phone. “She’s on her way up, Patric.”

The VIP elevator dinged, and Patric bounded toward it. “Morning, doc!” He reached out to relieve her of pocketbook and briefcase, coat and scarf, but she stopped short, her gaze fixed at the junction of his fuchsia suit and chartreuse shirt. Although he liked colors, he stunk at combining them. Sometimes his flub-ups bothered the doc’s exquisite sense of style.

“Change shirts?” he guessed. It was the usual solution.

“Yes,” she said evenly. “And tie, I should think.”

He glanced down. In retrospect, he should have guessed an orange tie with red cartoon characters wouldn’t go with fuchsia and chartreuse. “Yes, ma’am. Thank you.”

The doc’s pointing out such things would offend some people, but not him. She was a phenomenal woman—classy, talented, and brilliant. If she condescended to help him navigate the confusing ocean of colors, he would accept her advice gratefully, just as he felt grateful to her for honoring him with such an elevated position in the organization.

* * *

Camille hid a grin as she turned down the hall. Patric was a treasure. He was not only smart and competent, he made sure her undersecretaries were, too. Life before Patric had been exasperating.

At the other end of the long hallway, Stan’s executive secretary greeted Camille with obvious relief reflecting in her almond eyes. Nevertheless, she continued to twirl the white streak that she bleached into her waist-length black hair. Camille noted her nervousness with some discomfort. Madelyn had been a brilliant executive secretary to Stan since the company’s founding. She was astute, discreet, and had a particular knack for keeping Stan’s office under control, even when Stan was not. She also knew his moods, and she knew when to worry.

Camille halted in front of Marilyn. “How bad?”

“British, ma’am. And … well, I had to call Dr. Sondem over.”

Camille raised an eyebrow. British was bad enough. But if Madelyn had to get Garrick Sondem to babysit until she got there, Stan must really be in a state.

She stepped to the door and placed her thumb on the security pad. When she opened the door, she heard Garrick shouting, “Go ahead, Stan! Hit me! I could use a good fight!”

The guard at the door stiffened, his hand going to his gun.

Garrick’s methods of dealing with Stan’s moods weren’t necessarily helpful. Or healthy. But Camille shook her head at the guard. “It’s all right. They do this. I’ll take care of it.”

The guard looked unconvinced. Good man. Stan’s guards should be zealous for his safety, even if it meant distrusting their own commander.

“We’ll strike a bargain,” she said firmly. “If Dr. Sondem hasn’t exited within sixty seconds, you can come check on us.”

The guard checked his watch, apparently satisfied with that compromise.

Neither Stan nor Garrick noticed her entrance. She waited until Garrick had successfully dodged the nasty punch aimed at his jaw before she called, “Stan!”

Both men turned to her. Stan bellowed, “Desmon! You’d better have a good excuse!” He hardly took a breath before adding, “Get lost, Garrick.”

“You’re welcome,” Garrick returned sarcastically.

“Good to see you, Camille.” Garrick picked up his suit jacket and holstered gun as he strode toward the door. When he approached Camille, he rolled his eyes and mouthed, “Good luck.”

Stan demanded, “What do you mean by coming in at this hour?”

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