I crossed the office but before I could even make it to the uncomfortable and stained couch someone shouted, “Glum!” from behind me.
I turned around and a very small man approached me. “If you’ll just follow me,” he said.
I followed him down a long corridor and turned left into his office. The office was very small. Filing cabinets lined the walls. Paper spilled from all of them. Paper was everywhere. Piled on his desk and on top of the filing cabinets. He sat down behind his desk, adjusted his small glasses and said, “If you could give me just a half an hour with your, uh, manuscript there, I’ll be able to let you know.”
I plunked the manuscript down on his desk. He let out an exasperated sigh and reiterated, “One half hour, please.”
“Thank you,” I said, reaching across the desk to shake his hand. It was the size of a child’s and very smooth. I walked back down the long corridor and out to the reception area. Ms. X was crawling on the floor, sniffing the carpet. I pressed the button for the lobby and the elevator opened right up. Lance stood in the back right corner of the elevator. He stood very straight and very serious-looking. The elevator door closed and he moved to stand right next to me.
“Don’t get any ideas,” he hissed.
“I don’t think you have anything to worry about there.”
“She’s mine,” he hissed again, giving me a little push.
“Fine. Fine. I’m here to sell a book.”
“Oh, a big time author, huh?”
“Well, not really.”
“Just remember—stay away from Artemis.”
“Okay. Okay. Just...” The elevator doors opened and I immediately heaved myself for them. Lance tripped me and I went sprawling into the lobby. Staying in the elevator, he pointed at me and laughed. I picked myself up and headed for the front doors, figuring by the time I stepped outside, went back in and back up to the fortieth floor, a half hour would have elapsed. Standing on the steps in front of the building I saw a man with the head of an eagle walk across Fifth Avenue and into Central Park.
I also saw my imposter for the first time. He came through the front doors and stood there next to me. Curiously, I stared at him. He wore a wig resembling my hair. He wore the same glasses and blazer as I did. He carried a fat ream of paper under his arm. He surveyed the street in front of him and then, turning, saw me staring at him. He grabbed the ream of paper up to his chest and took off running into the park. I contemplated running after him, thinking maybe he had stolen my manuscript, but I wanted to be able to meet Mr. Half in one half hour.