I was in my last year of law school working as a paralegal. I worked in Downtown Chicago. Right in the Loop at a two-man law shop. It was a small humble firm. The business had its own office space, but the rest of the floor was shared with other small lawyer outfits like ours. Generally, everyone on the floor was nice. They all knew I was studying to become a lawyer and all had helpful tips to share. Honestly, it was probably one of the best pre-career experiences I had.
However, there was this one guy a few doors down from our office. The moment I met him I knew something was up. He gave me the absolute creeps.
His name was Lester. Tall, skinny, black man. Had to have been mid-fifties, early sixties. He must have gotten caught in a bad fire when he was younger. His face was all messed up. Burned. Couldn’t grow hair on his head and didn’t have eyelids. One of his ears was missing.
His deformed face didn’t creep me out but honestly, it didn’t help. Anytime I got caught talking him he just stared. It was like he was staring into my soul. I felt like he knew my secrets.
His demeanor wasn’t any better. He had a type of high pitched whistle in his voice. Always called me sweetie, hon, babe. Constantly mentioned how my legs looked good in my dress, how he liked my long, brown hair. My beautiful eyes.
My co-workers told me to not let Lester get to me. That’s just how he was. I couldn’t stand him. Avoided him every chance I could. You always knew Lester was coming down the hallway. You could hear the swishing of his green corduroy pants and clicking of his cane. Swish, click, swish, click. Thinking of the sound makes my skin crawl.
The last week of law school was a busy time for me. The lawyers I was working with were giving me more responsibility. Finals were upon me and I was cramming. My social life became obsolete. A thing of the past.
One night when I was studying for an exam I decided to head to the office. I couldn’t concentrate anymore at home. Wanted to pull an all nighter. I took the train downtown and made it to the office by 11:30pm. It was dark outside. No one on the streets. The Loop becomes dead after ten.
By the time I made it to the fifteenth floor I had to pee, bad. I had a huge up of coffee on the train. My bladder felt like it was going to explode.
When the elevator doors opened I ran quickly to the bathroom. I had to pee so bad I didn’t even turn the bathroom lights on.
I was checking my Facebook on my phone sitting in the stall when I heard and eerily familiar sound. Swish, click, swish, click. The hair on my arms stood up. A cold chill ran through my veins. Swish, click, swish, click. It couldn’t be I thought to myself, why would Lester be here this late at night. I brushed the sound off and went back to my phone.
Swish, click, swish, click. The sounds grew louder. This time I knew I wasn’t imagining it. Swish, click, swish, click. The sounds were close. Almost outside of the bathroom door.
Swish, click, swish, click. Silence. It sounded like the eerie sound stopped right outside of the bathroom door.
I listened closely. Heard nothing. Went back to my phone.
Creek! The bathroom door began to open. The hallways outside were dark so no light shined in. I threw my phone in my coat pocket and lifted my legs up so he couldn’t see my feet. It was pitch black.
Creek, the bathroom door shut. Swish, click, swish, click. Shit, I was alone in a dark bathroom with Lester. What the hell is he doing in here I thought to myself.
Swish, click, swish, click. He was making his way towards the middle of the bathroom. I had no idea what he was doing. I was literally freaking out. I was shaking.
Then the swishing and the clicking stopped. We must have sat in silence for at least ten minutes. If I listened closely I could hear his raspy breathing. My eyes started to adjust to the dark. Slowly, I looked under the stall and saw his shoes. The cuffs to his green corduroys.
Suddenly, my phone went off. Ping! It echoed throughout the bathroom. I panickily rushed to put it on silence, knowing it was to late. Swish, click, swish, click. He approached my stall and stood outside of it, breathing.
I’m trembling at this point. Totally creeped out. Not knowing what to say I put my feet down and in a shaky voice say, “can I help you?”
No answer. Silence.
“Hello”, I say, in a more confident tone.
“Fucking creep”, I yell.
He clears his throat. Thinking he was about to say something then, swish, click, swish, click. He leaves the bathroom.
Baffled at what just happened, I clean myself up and head to my office.
I lock the door when I get there. Forgetting what happened I spend the next few hours studying for my exam. By the time I’m done it must have been late into the night.
I decide to call it quits. Enough is enough. Sometimes there isn’t anything else you can do for an exam.
Remembering what happened earlier in the bathroom I open the office door slowly. A dim light shines out into the hallway. It’s Lester’s office.
No way he is still here I think to myself. At this time of night?
The only way to the exit it to pass his office. Fuck. I walk with haste in my step. Begin to pick up speed as I’m about to pass his office. Then I stop. Blood runs cold. I hear my own voice coming through speakers.
I drop my purse on the floor. I grow cold as I hear my own laughter coming from his open office door. Not knowing what to do I rush inside his office, not knowing what to expect.
My jaw drops. Eyes scan the room in shock. I see a video of myself at my tenth birthday party playing on his computer. Pictures of myself throughout the years cover his office walls. Pictures no one would have access. Pictures I have sent to ex-boyfriends.
Then one picture catches my eye. It’s me on the subway. On the subway a couple hours ago when I was heading to the office to study. I’m sitting next to a stranger with my coffee.
I panic and run out of his office, grabbing the picture of me on the subway. I take the elevator to the first floor and call the cops.
Eventually a squad vehicle shows up with two officers. I tell them my story then we head up to the fifteenth floor.
When we get to Lester’s office the door is shut. One of the offices reaches for the handle and opens it. A broom falls out. He switches on the light. Nothing. A storage closet.
I try to explain myself, but the officers don’t believe me. They tell me it’s a felony to do what I did. I begin crying out of pure confusion. I show them the picture of me on the subway, but they do nothing. Say it’s just a picture. I think they started to feel bad for me and asked if I wanted a ride home. I accept.
The next day at work I talked to my co-workers about Lester.
“Lester”, they say. “He died a few months ago”.
I’m shocked in disbelief. I tell them I saw him the other night at the office. They laugh and tell me it must have been someone else.
I’m not exactly sure what happened that night. I try to rationalize in my head that I made it all up from exhaustion. But I’m almost certain all of that was real. Plus, I have that picture.
The other night I was going through some old drawers and found that picture. I never really looked at it closely before. When I looked at it this time I saw something that I never saw before. Standing behind me you can see a pair of green corduroy pants and a cane. It can’t be. Can it?