Kennia glared at the old man who was still squirming about on the floor. Rifle his pockets or pick the lock? Either way, time was running out! She figured he must have the keys to this office since he seemed used to coming and going there, so she opted for searching him. The first chain she found held only his watch but the chain held exactly what she needed: keys! His keychain was heavy with keys but only a few were the small sort that would fit into a cabinet door-lock. Kennia quickly tried each in turn with the third one being the one to open the door. Yes! Here were the sorts of plans and schematics that could be the object of her search. Some of the plans were for a new type of boat, one designed to move under the water rather than over it. Fortunately the dossier was only about an inch thick so it wouldn’t be too difficult to pack. She wrapped it in the oilskin she’s brought for just this purpose and slipped it into her bucket under some of the damp cleaning rags. Now it was time to escape!
She carefully closed and locked the cabinet door; hopefully, anyone who found the old man would think that a scuffle had taken place rather than industrial espionage. If she was really lucky, the man himself would be too embarrassed to admit to the night’s events and would try to keep the entire incident a secret. She turned to where he was still glaring daggers at her from his position on the floor.
Kennia dropped her working-class dialect as she addressed him. “Like I said earlier, it might be awfully hard to explain how you came to be in this position. You might seriously consider keeping your mouth closed on the matter. Unless you like looking like a fool.” She turned and headed for the door. The entire episode had taken just over an hour. If she tried to leave the building now someone might notice and ask why she was leaving early. On the other hand, she didn’t dare risk that one of the other cleaners might chance upon her captive lying on the floor. Then she had an idea. She went out of the office and into the hallway and grabbed a bucket of water that the cleaning crew used to rinse their dirty rags and mops. She tucked the oilskin package in its covering safely out of the way and then upended the bucket of dirty water over her skirt. Damn it stunk! But now she has an excuse if anyone asked why she was leaving early.
Sure enough, the foreman gave her the stink-eye as she was going out the side door to the building. “Where ya goin’ gal? It ain’t quittin’ time and I know that you ain’t finished yer cleanin’.”
“Yeah, boss, I spilled dirty water all over myself and now I need to go home and get clean.”
“Ya leave now, then don’t bother comin’ back. And don’t even think about askin’ fer pay. Ya can’t have worked hardly two hours.”
“No suh, I surely ain’t comin’ back.” Kennia shook her head. She felt herself starting to shake from the strain of her act. She breathed deeply to calm herself.
“Don’t ya start cryin’ now, “ warned the foreman. “If yer leavin’ on account of that someone tried to mess wit ya, maybe I can help ya get on someplace else. There’s heaps of these offices that need cleanin’ around here.”
Kennia was touched by the unexpected kindness in his voice. “No suh, I reckon I got to get me some other kinda work is all. But thank you fer askin’ anyways.”
“Suit yerself” he shrugged and turned away. Now that was a lucky break!