By the time I walk out of the building it is already dark. I look at my watch. It's eight twenty.

In the end, I couldn't evade my manager. I was waiting for the elevator, which, it seems, isn't broken anymore. I heard the ding-dong, the doors opened, Tony walked out of it dispensing How you doins and sideway smiles and everybody else rushed in, ignoring him. Being the polite creature I am, I let them elbow and curse each other. Then when I was about to step in I touched the side pocket in my pants.

The keys. The doors closed. Tony was standing, looking at me and smiling like an idiot. I ignored him. Eventually, he left.

I had to go back. Going back into the office when you've already left for the day is an operation that requires courage and cunning. SEAL teams with night-vision equipment and other military paraphernalia have been known to fail this task. You think slipping by armed Russian sentinels is difficult? Try my manager.

I snuck in without much trouble, but as I was leaving I heard The Voice.

It said, Leaving? So early?

I turned around. My manager, Ted, was there, smiling broadly, a smile as natural as plastic and instant cement.

Hi, Ted, I said. Yeah, I was leaving. I had to...

That's great, he said. Great. But I needed you to help me with some reports we're finishing. Can you do that? Or do you really have to go? If you really have to go, it's no problem.

Of course, it's no problem, I think. Then I'm out of here. See you tomorrow, I think.

No, it's okay, I said.

Why the hell can't I say no, you wonder? Simple. If I say no, tomorrow I will find a ton of extra work to do. Ted's theory is, if you leave early it is because you didn't have enough to do. He is very convinced of that particular theory. It was in a book, he'd say. I didn't come up with this. If he's not in one of his biodegradable days, he might even quote the person that told him that they'd heard about it being in a book.

So we had to do the stay-late-and-put-out-fires routine a few times a week. Four or five times. Never more than six.

And so it was that I left three hours after I planned to. Luckily I don't have much of a life. No plans were ruined. Something good did come out of this, though. Walking through the city at night is an old favorite of mine. I stand outside the building and breathe in the first moments of fresh, cool evening air. I set the backpack, a bit heavy with the contents of the package, properly on my shoulders. I look up, around, at the lights as they grow brighter as the night settles in.

I walk.