224 - control
eff took another drag on his cigarette. A thick fog of smoke already hung in the room, but soon enough another lungful joined the clouds suspended under the yellow glow of the lamps.
"Read back so far," Jeff commanded, finishing his internal contemplations. He might have been speaking to the smoky air, addressing nobody in particular.
"'Dear Mister Parsons,'" a soft voice from behind him began. It belonged to Miss Tooley, his personal secretary, who was reading from a piece of paper still dangling from from her typewriter. "'I am writing you in regard to the issue we discussed during our last meeting on October the third.'"
The tip of Jeff's cigarette once again glowed with orange embers as Miss Tooley likewise paused to take a breath. She then continued, "'Regretfully, I must inform you that the terms of the deal as discussed are completely acceptable.'"
The cigarette waggled in between Jeff's lips as he heard her read back. "'Acceptable?' Does it say 'acceptable?'" he asked.
Miss Tooley carefully examined the letter, scanning over the sentence several times with her index finger as well as her eyes. "Yes sir. It says 'acceptable.' Is that not what you wanted it to say?"
Jeff shook his head from side to side in frustration. He turned around, facing Miss Tooley. His eyes wanted to shoot daggers at her, but he wavered upon seeing her visage illuminated under the soft lighting. She had retained her youthful features yet, giving her an aura of innocence. He wanted to go easy on her, but he couldn't entirely help himself.
"Did I say 'acceptable?'" he asked.
Miss Tooley recalled the previous moments in her head, analyzing whether or not he had actually said it. At last, she came to her conclusion: "Yes. I think so. Otherwise, I wouldn't have written it. I just type as you say."
Jeff massaged his fingertips into his forehead several times, trying to keep the situation under control. "Of course, Miss Tooley. That's your job. But do you actually remember me saying 'acceptable,' or are you just assuming that I did so because that's what is on the paper?"
"Well, neither of us can really know for sure, can we?" she answered with another question. "We can't rewind time and hear what you said again. All I know is that, if I wrote it, then I believe you said it."
Her response was voiced in a manner that did not come off as argumentative or insubordinate. She was technically right, Jeff knew, but he could not just simply let the matter drop.
"Yes, but it doesn't make sense at all, does it? Why would I have started off with 'regretfully' if I were accepting his terms?" he posited.
"I am not to interpret or question your dictations, sir. I'm not much of an editor, and oftentimes I don't understand a third of what you're having me type, anyway. I just write what you tell me, nothing more and nothing less," she said.
Miss Tooley remained in the right. Yet Jeff knew that she had made a mistake, he would never have said "acceptable." He wondered at how many times little mistakes like this one had occurred. He had noticed it a few times before, where she had written the exact opposite of what he had said. Could any of this be intentional? A deliberate, malicious attack, hidden perfectly under her innocent veneer.
Jeff gave Miss Tooley another glance, then sighed. "Okay, change 'acceptable' to 'unacceptable,' then, please. Sorry for the mistake. Continue the read back."