At the right of the doorway, a fountain gurgled over an iron spire. Ornate moldings with gilded leaves framed a second door. At the cherry desk guarding it, a gaunt woman peered over her bifocals.
Lines deepened around her lips as she spoke. “Go on in. Do not impose upon our patience.”
Laina turned the faceted crystal knob and let herself into the inner office. Palm fronds brushed the twelve foot ceilings, while their oriental pots anchored the corners of a Persian rug. Modern paintings adorned the teak-paneled walls, except for the majestic glass bookcase framing the city-view window.
She closed the door behind her, hesitating to take a step toward the Cadillac-sized desk. Margaret Winslow’s multi-hued blonde locks swept back from her high cheekbones into a French twist. She wore an ivory skirt-suit with a cashmere cape. Her tight complexion and plumped lips suggested decades of youth not supported by neck’s crepey texture.
Winslow removed her bejeweled spectacles and gestured to the wingback chairs. “Lena, is it?”
“Yes, ma’am.” She quick-stepped to the chairs and sat. “Well, Laina, but close enough.”
Her teeth glinted through a thin opening as her lips strained into a near-smile. “Good. The world of media is more competitive today than at any other time in history. We can’t afford to fall behind, nor can we miss a single angle. Every edge must be grabbed.”
Laina re-crossed her legs, twisting her fingers in her lap. “I understand.”
Winslow folded her hands atop the desk. “I trust you’ve heard about the incident with the guard and the ghost. Our building’s a-buzz.”
“Our markets crave the supernatural. Rumors and myths enrich their addictions to all things dark and eerie. With ghost sightings and legends breeding in our very walls, this is is an opportunity we must mine to the fullest. I’m going to oversee an editorial series on supernatural phenomena, starting with the poltergeist who appeared at your desk. Since she called your name, I’m putting you on the assignment.”
Dry air ached across her tongue. Laina recognized her mouth hung open. She closed it and swallowed. “I’m sorry. Assignment?”
Ms. Winslow leaned against the leather padding of her executive chair. “If you’re concerned about your writing quality, we have a top-notch team of editors to polish the article. I do expect your best work. You will investigate every possible angle of the story. And submissions will never be late.”
“Um, so I’m writing an editorial about supernatural manifestations.” She cleared her throat. “And Mr. Ellison–”
“Works for me. He will forward tasks to another employee in his department. I want your full attention on my project. You now report to my assistant, Ms. Carver. If you have any further questions, direct them to her.” She stretched her lips into another quasi-smile and pointed to the door. “That will be all, Leanne.”
With a quick nod, Laina sprang up and hustled from the office. She closed the door behind her, gaping.
Ms. Carver’s voice startled her. “You’d better get started, Miss Selving.”
Laying a hand on her pounding chest, she turned to face the assistant. “I forgot to ask . . .”
Ms. Carver continued typing, without glancing away from her computer. “Friday. My email is on my card.”
She took a business card from the engraved glass holder on the desk’s corner. “So, are there requirements or details I should know for this assignment?”
“Eight hundred words of exquisite work, compelling details, with thorough outside references. I prefer submissions by nine, but no later than noon. That should be clear enough. Good day.”
With a buzz, the suite’s outer door clicked ajar. Laina thanked her on the way out, but her courtesy hung unreturned in the air as the door snapped shut behind her.
She shuffled through the executive hallway, tucked away the linen-textured card. Not fired, but on assignment to investigate an evil spirit calling her name.
Laina stepped inside the empty elevator. With a single tap, the stainless doors swished closed. On the swift descent, her stomach plummeted. She twisted the chain of the amulet promising escape from the terrors haunting her. Now she must seek the darkness to expose its secrets. What would facing evil bring her?
“He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him” (Daniel 2:22).