Chapter Two: The Devil's Helper

"Where the hell is Samantha?"

The irritation in her boss’s voice set Sam’s heart pounding and pushed her to double-speed. She tugged at the three-quarter sleeves of her Ann Taylor short jacket and smoothed her short, dark auburn hair as she hurried towards Ms. Lotan's office, mind whirling with excuses for her tardiness. She discarded traffic, flat tires, and alarm failure; she'd used these before with less than satisfactory results. She would have to use the old stand-by: non-specific illness. Not that it had more credibility than car incidents or power failure, but if delivered with a convincingly unhealthy face, it was acceptably difficult to argue. The trick was to present a sick face, and not an exhausted, I-slept-through-the-alarm-so-I've-only-been-up-for-25-minutes face.

Telling the CEO of Abbadon Industries that Jack, her live-in boyfriend of five months, had just dumped her was not an option. Explaining that Jack had dumped her between showering and brushing his teeth, emotionlessly confessing that he had been seeing someone else for four of the five months they’d been living together, was unthinkable. Ms. Lotan wasn't a friendly sort of boss; she didn't want to hear about personal problems – especially if they interfered with work. On the bright side, Sam's eyes, puffy and pink from her self-pitying bout of crying, might assist her in presenting just the right image of general unwellness. Playing the sick card might even work in her favor; if the boss believed her, she would get kudos for her dedication to work while clearly under the weather.

Sam took a deep breath, fortified herself with memories of illness, and entered the Great Office. Its sheer size was imposing, even on days that she didn’t begin by incurring her boss’ wrath. As she walked through the door, the fireplace that dominated the main wall seemed to blaze up, bringing beads of sweat to her already-damp brow. The massive Raleo desk, centered in the room, was easily six feet square, handcrafted of tropical hardwoods and polished to a dark shine. Its two wide legs, each spanning a side of the desk, were twisted, as if a giant had pressed his palm heavily upon it and given it a one-quarter turn. As always, nothing but a telephone marred its glossy surface. Three walls of floor-to-ceiling windows commanded an awe-inspiring view of the Atlantic; Sam’s eyes locked on the small, colorful canvas of a faraway sailboat, and she wished she were anywhere but here.

Ms Lotan was seated at her desk, severely beautiful with her raven hair fastened in a French twist. She stared at Sam, eyes burning.

“I’m so sorry, Ms. Lotan – I’m not feeling well this morning, and it took me a little longer to – ”

“I’m not interested in your excuses, Samantha. It’s 7:43. You’re paid to be here at 7:30, and I expect you to be here at 7:25 so you’re ready to work at 7:30.” Sam wouldn’t have thought it possible, but Ms. Lotan’s face darkened even more. “And I won’t tolerate your lies. If you’re having problems at home, as I suspect is the case, address them before you need to leave for the office. They’re your problems – don’t make them mine.”

Sam suddenly felt intensely ill, as if she had manifested her imagined sickness. She was terrified that she would disgrace herself by depositing what was left of last night’s dinner on the pure gold and silver threads of her boss’s ancient Persian rug; it was an original remnant of the 'Spring Carpet of Chosroes', the only remaining piece in existence, outside of a few museums.

Ms. Lotan’s eyes bored into her, paralyzing her for another instant, and then moved to the door. The nausea disappeared. Sam turned to see what had diverted Ms. Lotan’s attention, grateful for the distraction. Her relief was short-lived. Standing in the doorway was Tom Wright, Vice President of Abbadon Industries, and the person that made her more nervous than anyone – with the exception of Ms. Lotan herself. Mr. Wright was an almost-handsome man in his mid-forties; his slightly crooked nose and the malice that flashed in his eyes when he inappropriately flirted with her ensured that she would never find him attractive. Sam was usually familiar with his business agenda, if not his private one, and used that knowledge to stay out of his way as much as possible. Unsure of the reason for Mr. Wright’s unscheduled visit to her boss’s office, she looked back at Ms. Lotan, searching for direction – should she go, or stay?

1 comment:

S Florko said...

Great writing on this Chapter! It was exciting and I am ready for more. I liked it much better than the 1st Chapter, which was a much "darker" work, definitely not my type :) --SF