Roald Higginbottom considered the situation and gave an indignant snort. He assumed Fierro, a North American, would be on time. His indignation cooled as he realized that besides meeting with Fierro he had nothing else to do. He might as well wait here with the prospect of something interesting happening as wait at his studio where it was guaranteed nothing interesting would happen.

     After all, this was obviously a waiting area as evidenced by a stuffed chair and a heavily fatigued coffee table littered with a pile of tattered magazines.

      Higginbottom sat down and surveyed the room. There were a large desk and chair, the back of which was against a window overlooking the Avenue. The room was bigger than it needed to be—was that a 14-foot ceiling? Higginbottom, who maintained a stalled career as an abstract painter, thought the battered stucco walls could use some large paintings. The empty walls contained two filing cabinets, a coat rack, the desk and chair, a coffee table, and the threadbare chair Higginbottom was sitting on. The room had a slight echo. The overall statement was emptiness. Not a good statement, thought Higginbottom.

     The two filing cabinets, sitting side by side, were in the far corner near the windows. He craned his neck and saw behind the cabinets a squat, antique safe. Now that's interesting, thought Higginbottom, although he doubted, from the looks of the room, that it contained anything of value. On top of the safe, pushed to the back, was a potted cactus—or what had been a cactus. A brittle, brown flower draped over a withered, spine-bedeckled trunk. Higginbottom frowned, hard to imagine anyone with such a poor way with plants. How do you kill a cactus in this humid environment?

     The Venetian blinds were pulled up and afternoon light streamed through five tall windows, one of which was slightly ajar. Roald heard the honk and hum of the traffic below. If he had been listening more attentively, he would have heard the sound of an ancient elevator clanking to a sudden halt and a distant voice with a heavy North American accent politely requesting help. It was Fierro's voice and so far had a civil quality although Fierro struggled to contain a rising panic.

     "Is anyone there? Can someone help?" This elevator's gotta be fixed, thought Fierro indignantly.

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