The Five-Forty-Eight Summary

The Five-Forty-Eight Summary

Mr. Blake recognizes Miss Dent’s face before he remember her name. The look on her face is more than a bit off-putting; he can tell the woman loathes him with every ounce of her being. That being the case, he chooses to avoid her. Instead of approaching, he heads off toward those glass doors where the lobby ends.

When he gets outside, he takes off toward Madison Avenue with the loud sound of the city echoing all around him. He feels the presence of Miss Dent following closely behind more than he sees it. He refuses to indulge her by turning around to look, instead peering through a large plate glass window of a building and detecting her reflection looming just behind him. That reflected image spooked him more than he would like to admit and he began making his way more hurriedly toward Madison Ave. The lights were brighter down there. Down there it would be safer.

He begins to feel a little ridiculous. Miss Dent may be many things, but clever is not at the top of the list and therefore it should be easy enough to lose her in the crowd on the sidewalk. To think he was being followed began to seem silly. She was foolish and he was hardly a spy carrying government secrets. Following him? Why should anyone waste time following him?

He ducks into a crowed bar and orders a Gibson as he struggles to remember the woman’s name. Bent or Lent or Dent or something like that. How could not remember the woman who had been hired as secretary just six months earlier? She was competent and punctual and her only failing really was quite atrocious handwriting. Of course, there was that overwhelming sense of loneliness and she seemed overly sensitive and, of course, needy and when she invited home for a drink, he realized she practically lived in poverty.

The drink naturally led to sex and about an hour later was leaving and she was weeping and so the next day he did what any other man in his position would do: he had her fired while she was away and lunch and left the office himself for the rest of the day. After a second Gibson, he leaves the bar and sees no sight of the woman. He buys a paper before taking a seat on the half-empty train and glancing around to spot his neighbors. Mrs. Compton is on the train and the smile on her face instantly disappears when she spots him. He’s pretty sure that Mrs. Compton detests him because his wife tells her everything that goes on between them. He built a bookcase between his room and his wife’s room so that she could no longer enter without permission. That’s the kind of thing that makes Mrs. Compton’s smile fade.

Mr. Watkins is also on the train and, of course, they haven’t spoken since his son Charlie had started spending more time at the Watkins house than his own which prompted Watkins to say some not very nice things about him one day. He settles in and enjoy his victory over the woman. He knew she wasn’t clever enough to keep up with him.

And then he hears his name being spoken and there she is, introducing herself. It was Miss Dent, after all, and not Miss Bent. She politely asks to take a seat and they engage in some brief pleasantries before she opens her purse, takes out a handkerchief and start to cry. Mr. Blake looks around to see if anyone has noticed. She explains that she’s been sick and when he asks where she works now she laughs and says that he poisoned their minds. The train makes a stop and when it starts moving again, he says he’s going to the next car.

Miss Dent warns him that he’s not going anywhere because she has a pistol in her purse and she’s prepared to kill him. He stares out the window and retains his composure on the thought that help will come because help has to come. When he asks what she wants of him, she replies that she only wants to talk. When he says she’s had that chance all along, she reminds him that she returned to his office every day for two weeks and never got in to see him.

He learns that his rejection of her sent her to a hospital for treatment, but she couldn’t be cured and that for the past three months she’s been without a job. She wrote him a letter when she couldn’t get to see him and now she wants him to read it. The letter is written in her bad handwriting and address “Dear Husband.” The letter states that the hospital staff only want to take away her self-respect and that she is clairvoyant. She proves this by reading his thoughts that if he can only get to Shady Hill alive, he can lose her. The latter also states that devils exist in the world and that it is our job to exterminate devils. She shoves the gun up against him and the conductor announces Shady Hill is the next stop.

She orders him to get off ahead of her with the gun pointed at him and they walk across the platform filled with other neighbors he recognizes as well as strangers. She guides him toward a deserted freight house and makes him kneel on the ground before her. The she orders him to put his face down into the filth of the coal-dusted ground where a rat had just stolen a paper bag for itself. Stretched out, face down in the filth, he begins to weep.

Then he hears the sound of her walking away. Daring to raise his head, he sees her cross over to the other platform. Raising himself to his feet he stares at her until he realizes from the expression on her face and the attitude her entire being has adopted that Miss Dent has completely and utterly forgotten he even exists.

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