There were eyes fixed on me the moment I exited the elevator. I wasn’t sure if they were agents or legitimate Jupiter office staff, but they were visibly communicating, mainly through frowns and threatening expressions, that my presence on the floor wasn’t welcomed or warranted. I wanted to laugh. One would think that an employee of a company would be welcomed on any floor of the company. Of course, very, very few, if any, of us had seen Zachary Jupiter in the flesh or even thought to approach this floor. I continued toward my destination, recalling the map Spall had given me to study.
“Can I help you?”
An attractively dressed young woman seemed to appear out of thin air next to me, armed with a clipboard, a painted-on smile, and now moving in tandem with me. “No, I’m fine, thank you.”
“Which office are headed to?” she asked.
“Zachary Jupiter’s office.”
She stopped short, gaping at me. “You can’t—how—he’s—”
As she comically stammered, a definite balm for my nerves, I looked at her carefully. The same almond-shaped brown eyes, the angular face; she bore enough of a resemblance to Cassiopeia to be noticeable. Could it be?
How many children did Jupiter have?
Had he filled the 28th floor with all of them?
“Do you know Cassiopeia Benson?” I asked quietly, interrupting her tirade.
She leveled me with a hard, long gaze. “Why?”
“She’s why I’m here. I think you and Cassiopeia might have something—or someone—in common. Am I wrong?”
She didn’t respond.
“Well, I have enough information to bring the person you and Cassiopeia might have in common to his knees, as well as this company. Maybe you can accompany me to his office, provide an introduction? What do you think?” I wanted her to know that I went to the office, that I didn’t back down.
“Nothing scares him,” she said with evident pride.
She leveled me with another disgusted expression but muttered that I should follow her. As we advanced down hallways and around corners, the attention from passersby didn’t wane. I maintained my composure, thinking only of the woman and I loved and how I was doing this for her. The fact was that Cassiopeia’s father would never let her go, no matter how much she wanted to fix things. I needed to do my part in the fixing.
We approached an imposing, oak door at the end of yet another hallway. The inner sanctum, no doubt. The young woman glanced back at me. “Just remember that you chose to come here,” she said to me.
I felt an unsurprising chill traverse my spine.
She knocked on the door before entering. The seemingly seconds-long conversation she engaged in was obviously unintelligible, but soon she came back out and gestured for me to enter the office of Zachary Jupiter.