slowly. "We'll go back there—and see which of us is right."
They crossed the street together, Ruth holding on tight to Ed's arm. Ahead of them was the building, the towering structure of concrete and metal and glass.
"There it is," Ruth said. "See?"
There it was, all right. The big building rose up, firm and solid, glittering in the early afternoon sun, its windows sparkling brightly.
Ed and Ruth stepped up onto the curb. Ed tensed himself, his body rigid. He winced as his foot touched the pavement—
But nothing happened: the street noises continued; cars, people hurrying past; a kid selling papers. There were sounds, smells, the noises of the city in the middle of the day. And overhead was the sun and the bright blue sky.
"See?" Ruth said. "I was right."
They walked up the front steps, into the lobby. Behind the cigar stand the seller stood, arms folded, listening to the ball game. "Hi, Mr. Fletcher," he called to Ed. His face lit up good-naturedly. "Who's the dame? Your wife know about this?"
Ed laughed unsteadily. They passed on toward the elevator. Four or five businessmen stood waiting. They were middle-aged men, well dressed, waiting impatiently in a bunch. "Hey, Fletcher," one said. "Where you been all day? Douglas is yelling his head off."
"Hello, Earl," Ed muttered. He gripped Ruth's arm. "Been a little sick."
The elevator came. They got in. The elevator rose. "Hi, Ed," the elevator operator said. "Who's the good-looking gal? Why don't you introduce her around?"
Ed grinned mechanically. "My wife."
The elevator let them off at the third floor. Ed and Ruth got out, heading toward the glass door of Douglas and Blake, Real Estate.
Ed halted, breathing shallowly. "Wait." He licked his lips. "I—"
Ruth waited calmly as Ed wiped his forehead and neck with his handkerchief. "All right now?"
"Yeah." Ed moved forward. He pulled open the glass door.
Miss Evans glanced up, ceasing her typing. "Ed Fletcher! Where on earth have you been?"
"I've been sick. Hello, Tom."
Tom glanced up from his work. "Hi, Ed. Say, Douglas is yelling for your scalp. Where have you been?"
"I know." Ed turned wearily to Ruth. "I guess I better go in and face the music."
Ruth squeezed his arm. "You'll be all right. I know." She smiled, a relieved flash of white teeth and red lips. "Okay? Call me if you need me."
"Sure." Ed kissed her briefly on the mouth. "Thanks, honey. Thanks a lot. I don't know what the hell went wrong with me. I guess it's over."
"Forget it. So long." Ruth skipped