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Authors: Ingrid Reinke

Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Cozy, #Women Sleuths, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Romantic Comedy, #Mystery & Suspense

Dead End Job

BOOK: Dead End Job
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Dead End Job: A Louisa Hallstrom Novel

By Ingrid Reinke

 

Copyright 2012 Ingrid Reinke, all rights reserved.

 

This book is sold subject to the conditions that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, copied, or otherwise circulated without the author’s prior consent in any other format or changed in any way, including the author’s name and title, and without similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental. The use of any real person, company or product names are for literary effect only and used without permission. The author does not assume any responsibility for third-party websites or their content.

 

Acknowledgements

 

First and foremost I’d like to thank my husband Karl, who acted like a good bra by providing me solid and unwavering support throughout this process. Thank you for reading endless, rambling and badly written drafts, laughing at all of my jokes, and giving me the encouragement that I needed. Thank you for being my best friend. I love you.

Thank you to my parents who taught me to read and fostered my passion for good stories & thank you to my wonderful, funny and slightly off-kilter group of friends who insisted that I had a talent for writing. Without you this would never have happened, and I am truly thankful.

I’d also like to thank Lisa Wilcox for helping me get on my feet with some solid editing and advice early on, and the team at All Ivy Writing Services for taking an editorial machete to my first draft and helping me shape this book into what it is today. Final thanks to the team at Bullseye Creative for helping my creation come to life by designing the cover art.

 

Contents

Prologue

Chapter 1: Memorandum: Your Life Sucks

Chapter 2: Stinky Cheese Towels

Chapter 3: Dates and Drugs

Chapter 4: Shock to the System

Chapter 5: Sign Here, Stupid

Chapter 6: Death and Trivia

Chapter 7: Pile it On

Chapter 8: Put a Steak on It

Chapter 9:  Hard to Swallow

Chapter 10: Shit is Whack

Chapter 11: Who are You and Where are My Pants?

Chapter 12: Sloppy Seconds

Chapter 13: Tramp Stamp

Chapter 14: Hot Mess

Chapter 15: Group Think

Chapter 16: Walking Papers

Chapter 17: Sick Day

Chapter 18: All Bad Things Come to an End

 

Prologue

 

 

 

 

I know I’m lying on the ground, but I can’t remember if my eyes are open or closed. If they are open, I only see darkness. If they are closed, I am afraid to open them. My vision is confused, but I know that I feel pain, so much pain.  Even though I feel the waves of agony coming from every part of my body, somewhere in my brain, I realize that the true source must be my left shoulder. I hear my heart pounding. I smell the metallic, sweet scent of blood, and I can feel it flowing onto my neck, bubbling up with the beat of my heart. It drips down my chest, into my belly button and over my arm, slowly pooling onto the carpet. My long blond hair, clumped under my neck, feels wet and heavy. The back of my head pounds in an agonizing, steady rhythm, echoing the beating of my heart.

I have to move. I need to be rolling over, standing and running. I need to run, or I must punch, scratch, claw and kick. I need to fight for my life; I will surely die if I lay here a moment longer. There is no other option. Adrenaline shoots through me like a spark and tells my brain: push, push, push. Get up, Louisa, get up NOW.

My legs are slow to react. After long seconds I feel my feet twitching. My right arm finds its way onto the carpet and begins to push my body away from the floor. My right leg bends, lifting my knee up, bracing for my body’s weight. Finally.

Seeing nothing, I now know that my eyes are closed. I strain to open them and when I succeed I can only see my imminent death, staring down at me in the shape of a gun barrel. I brace myself for what I know is coming.

Suddenly the world is ripped away from me. I hear an ear splitting explosion and I know that my plans have been ruined. Shards of glass rain down on my face and body. Surely I will not live to see how this will end.

 

 

Chapter 1: Memorandum: Your Life Sucks

 

 

 

 

“Lulu, turn around. Turn around right now. She is COMPLETELY losing her shit!” said the frantic instant message from my best gay, Martin.

I slowly stood up and turned around to peer over the cubes to the other side of the office. Sure enough, my boss Elaine was in the midst of a full-blown meltdown. Her smeared glasses were crooked on her face, somehow caught on one side in her frizzy reddish-blond hair. The usual dusting of dandruff on her shoulders seemed to thicken with every frantic step as she paced in an erratic circle, pounding her fists on some invisible surface and screaming “Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! SHIIIIIIIIT!!!” I whipped back around and sat down in my desk as quickly and quietly as I could.

“I wonder what it is this time,” popped up another IM from Martin, who was currently laugh-coughing and furiously typing messages in the cube across from me while pretending to do an expense report. “She probably lost her keys in her purse again.”

I leaned toward my desk, inching my head as close as humanly possible to my keyboard while still maintaining the ability to type. Hiding. Click clack click, I typed away. I had three IM conversations going: the first with my sister in Australia, who was six days late and not really wanting to have another baby right at the moment; the second with my friend Amanda, who worked across town at Children’s Hospital on an epilepsy study and actually liked her job; and finally, the ongoing daily conversation with Martin, where we hypothesized about our coworkers' penis sizes, Lady Gaga’s new album, and made snarky comments to each other about the unwitting "losers" sitting next to us.

I waited for ten seconds or so while the screaming went on. Unfortunately for my fellow co-workers and me, Elaine’s outbursts were frequent and legendary, and she always did her best to involve as many people as possible.

Seconds after I had peeked over in Elaine’s direction, I made an educated guess that her initial panic attack had passed. She had now moved on to the second phase of her episode: scanning the office for a victim. Flinching, I put my head down to my desk, doing everything I could to avoid eye contact.
Please, please, please, don’t pick me. Please, please, please, don’t pick me.
I repeated the mantra over and over in my head. Just thinking about dealing with Elaine was giving me sudden and vicious heartburn.

I swallowed, took a deep breath and tried my best to melt into my keyboard. I had a pretty good shot at staying out of this particular meltdown, because I sat outside of Elaine’s direct line of sight. Plus, the lenses of her eyeglasses were so blurry and smeared with grease it frightened me that she had even driven in to the office this morning wearing them. However, immediately in Elaine's line of fire were a couple of our group’s analysts: Michelle, an extremely stupid but sweet woman who was always on the edge of getting fired; Clark, a ridiculously hot but super moody thirty-something who always seemed to be dating a different 90-pound Asian stripper; Laura, who was nauseatingly perfect—one of those super-tall, thin, perfectly-groomed women who was always in early and always left late (ugh, I hated her); and Mark, Elaine’s older, also gay, Administrative Assistant.

Mark, having full knowledge of Elaine’s tendency to spazz out, had gotten up and started walking over to her office, drawing her attention away from the rest of the office. Everyone else in the vicinity seemed to sigh in collective relief, but maintained either furiously typing, talking on the phone, or whatever tactic they preferred using to avoid Elaine. Elaine zeroed in on Mark.

“Maaaaahhhk!” she screeched, pausing from her circular march of profanity.

Mark was practically a saint. He divided his days between being at the office and performing various volunteer duties for his church. Even his precious little vacation time was dedicated to helping elderly ladies move, accompanying the congregation’s chorus on the piano, and fundraising for the various charities for which he served as a board member. Because Mark was a deeply Christian man, I had the feeling that his passion for all things religious was his way of paying some kind of penance to God for his gayness. Although he was definitely “in the closet,” there was sufficient discussion from the other employees about his sexual orientation for us all to simply accept it as fact. Most of this speculation came in response to Mark’s “roommate” of several years, Christopher, whom Mark brought to all of the office functions. Christopher was tall and devastatingly handsome, with chocolate skin and velvety brown eyes, and it was obvious to everyone that Mark doted on him. Poor Mark had worked exclusively for Elaine for twelve years already, and although he had to be in his late sixties, he didn't seem to be headed toward retirement any time soon. I always wondered how he did it—although he would probably credit prayer, my best guess was Xanax.

“Maaaaahhhk!” Elaine was still screaming. Her East Coast accent really came out when she was upset, and it became more and more pronounced as the volume of her voice increased.

Jesus
, I thought to myself,
he’s sitting right in front of her, is that really necessary?
Seconds later, I listened to Mark trying to calm her down in his measured, soothing voice. I’m talking
really
slow—Mark is what I would call a classic slow-talker, which frustrated the hell out of me and (I’m guessing) 96% of other human beings. But it seemed to create the right atmosphere for Elaine, who was not only completely bat-shit, but also so hyper and erratic that the employees had made a game of arm-chair diagnosing her with various mental disorders. The most popular options at the moment were either Adult ADHD or full blown Bi-Polar Disorder.

Elaine had been with Merit for over thirty years. She started as a secretary (as our kind were called in those days), and worked her way up the corporate ladder to her leadership position. Morbidly curious as to how she had achieved such success in her career without doing any actual work or being proficient in any specific field, I had studied her business tactics and realized that Elaine was truly a master at appearing busy and productive to upper management. For example, she had different “initiatives” for our group every quarter, all of which I was in charge of coming up with. To let all of us know that these initiatives were being put in place, she would make a big fuss by having me circulate brightly colored emails with flashy graphics around the office, requesting that every employee take part in one way or another (Come up with your top 5 target accounts by Friday at noon!). The emails looked very impressive and important, with subject lines that read ALERT or URGENT and had deadlines in bold red text. The thing was, after they were sent out, she simply didn’t follow up on any of them. Of course it didn’t matter, because inevitably there would be another initiative just like it within the next couple of months. It was all for show. She knew it, and our group knew it, but everyone went along with it, doing the minimum required on each new campaign to keep Elaine happy, until the predictable happened and she would forget or simply stop responding.

Although Elaine’s personality was difficult, the rest of the office leadership seemed to admire her, calling her marketing efforts “exemplary.” Add that to the fact that our group had been the only business group within the company that doggedly stayed in the black over the last few tough years, and Elaine got away with her rampant craziness.

I didn’t dare look behind me, but I knew that Mark had somehow successfully persuaded Elaine out of the common area and back into her office, where he was talking her down off of the wall. I could hear the quiet steady drone of his voice over my typing.

BOOK: Dead End Job
4.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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