There had been an argument down the hall. Raised voices, a thump, then silence. Martha harrumphed and reached over Larry’s head. He flinched as she grabbed the key off the pegboard. She turned and pushed through the swinging door, disappearing around the corner before it could swing back.
Larry closed his binder after laying a pencil across the spreadsheet to save his place. He stood, pulling himself up at the counter. He propped a sign near the edge of the counter to face the lobby. It was a dog-eared, peeling from its cardboard backing. A cartoon bird was wearing a watch on one wing, pointing to it with the other, its beak open in a wide smile. “Be Back Soon!” in letters that always reminded Larry of that pig and his “That’s all Folks!” at the end of the cartoon.
Larry bent to collect items he’d stowed near his feet. He shuffled after Martha at half her pace. He could hear her before he turned down the hall and saw her, both feet planted at the second door down. She was knocking, her knuckles stern on the wood.
“Manager,” she said, her lips tight.
“Martha, there’s no one,” Larry said.
Four more doors down, there was the sound of a latch. Light threw itself against the opposite wall. Larry saw the shadow of a head. Right. They weren’t completely empty. Never completely.