Laina pressed her shoulder against the engraved plaque directing the way to marketing and editorial departments. She peered around the corner. Beyond the central hive of grey cubicles, fluorescent glare crowned the windows walling in the corner office. Mr. Ellison raised a cell phone to his ear and turned in his executive chair to face away from employees.
She scanned the immediate area. Chris hunched over a report in his cubicle. Missy fumbled with a pill bottle in her desk. Mr. Chum’s end cubicle was empty. Laina crept to her cubicle and slid into her task chair. She bent over and clicked her desktop on.
Mr. Chum’s lisping tone filled her cubicle. “So, you decided to join us today after all?”
Laina sat up and tucked her hair behind an ear. “I was answering questions about a neighbor’s death at the police station.”
He folded his arms and tapped at the lavender pinstripes on his upper sleeve. “Well, that’s a new twist on your dead neighbor excuse.”
She ground her teeth, biting back the expletives surging to her lips. “You seriously think I’d make that up?”
Chum cocked his head aside a bit. “What’s that like, five now? Does your building have a curse, or just a simple case of plague?”
“Or a psychopath.” She glared at him. “I suppose you’re familiar with the term.”
Hand on a hip, he pointed within an inch of her nose. “Look, missy. Don’t get snarky with me. Mr. Ellison’s had it with your tardiness. We need proof of your story.”
“Call this guy to verify it, then.” She yanked the detective’s card from her coat pocket and thrust it toward him. “She had a heart attack. Sweet, eighty-year-old widow. In case you have enough humanity left to care about such things. My other neighbors were murdered.”
Pinkies extended, he pinched the card and snatched it up. “Just don’t be late again, or you’re fired.”
As Chum sauntered back to his cubicle, she wound her finger into the medallion’s chain. Maybe if he lived closer to violence he’d worry more about the frailty of life.
“Do not long for the night,
to drag people away from their homes.
Beware of turning to evil,
which you seem to prefer to affliction” (Job 36:20-21).