Laina slung her purse under her desk and grinned at her watch–two minutes early. As she pulled back her chair, a sticky note fluttered off the back and drifted onto the seat. As she turned it over, her smile wilted.
Please meet me in my office at 9 AM – M. Winslow.
So much for a better morning. Laina sighed, yanking off her scarf and coat sleeves.What had she done to annoy Margaret Winslow? Top floor execs didn’t usually pay any mind to the cubicle grunts. Much less the founder’s granddaughter.
She plopped onto her chair and booted up the computer. Thirty new emails filled the screen. Maybe she could get through a few of them before the dreadful trip upstairs. Five minutes into the first task, harp tones erupted from her purse. She continued working, but the text alert persisted. With a huff, she pushed in her keyboard tray and drew out her phone.
Starting yesterday, the same number had sent six unread messages. How had she missed all of these?
It’s Rory. Lunch?
So, how about dinner then?
I can bring coffee to your work in AM?
We gotta talk.
This is the Rory who sold you the amulet.
She’d have to draw clear lines with him later. As her fingertip moved toward the volume, a call rang in from an unknown number.
“I don’t have time today.” Laina ended the call before a conversation could start.
As she reached down to tuck her phone away, a call buzzed in again. She picked it up. “Listen, maybe you’re a decent–”
A baritone voice interrupted her. “This is Sergeant Halloway. Am I speaking with Laina Selving?”
She clapped a hand over her mouth, muffling a curse. “I’m so sorry. I thought you were someone else.”
“That’s what I figured. We’ll need you to come to the station this afternoon and see if you can identify the perpetrator in a line-up.”
She twisted the yellow meeting summons as the pitch of her voice rose. “Today? Can I see when I’ll be able to get out of work and let you know?”
The Sergeant dictated his direct number. She smoothed the sticky note and scribbled the digits on it. “I’ll call you as soon as I can. Thanks for understanding.”
She bent forward to replace her phone and Mr. Chum’s voice prickled over her spine. “Mr. Ellison expects you on task, Missy. Let’s keep those personal chats to a minimum.”
Pressing her lips into a hard line, she sat up. “Probably not against company policy to pick up when the police call. Dontcha think?”
“I’m a creative. It galls me that you can’t invent a new story now and then.” Chum rolled his eyes. “Like the cops have you on speed dial. Puh-leeze.”
“You wanna redial my last call and check?” She folded her arms.
He planted a limp-wristed hand on his hip. “I don’t have time to waste with you. Mr. Ellison expects you to finish your work. Even if you are haunted.”
“That’s mean-spirited, even by your standards.” She narrowed her eyes at him.
“Come on. The ghost and the guard? Oh, you haven’t heard. Well, I’m sure someone’ll let you in on the story during your lunch hour.” He smirked. With a double clap, he turned on his heels. “Chop-chop. Get that focus back, little lady.”
Laina grimaced, measuring which half of life could prove worse–work or home. She pulled out her keyboard tray and read yesterday’s note-to-self on the desk calendar. Contemplating life can hinder plans to complete lifeless work. She hammered through a fraction of the tasks she had hoped to finish. When her time dwindled to a few minutes before the meeting, she hit “save” and leapt up from her task chair.
She hustled to the elevator and jabbed the button repeatedly. She counted the seconds until its doors opened. Three people inside. Three floor-buttons pressed, none of them hers. Laina checked her watch. Maybe she could still get to Winslow’s office in three minutes.
A woman’s arm shot through the closing doors, forcing them to retreat open. She entered with a smile and pressed a new floor button.”Ah, what luck!”
“I’ll could use some, if you’ve got extra,” Laina said.
“Pardon?” The woman’s forehead wrinkled.
“Luck.” Laina shrugged. “People never seem to have that in surplus, though, do they?”
The others shifted a half-step away, so Laina assumed the standard, elevator-ceiling gaze.
She studied her watch and batted the door-close button as each occupant departed. The time inched a minute past nine before she reached the top floor. She raced down the hall, slowing to a speed walk when executives strolled into view. Teak panels loomed at the far end of the hall, flanking a matching door.
Laina clutched the amulet. Arden’s wink flashed into her mind and she released the necklace. Knocking above Ms. Winslow’s engraved plaque, she fumbled at a silent prayer. Please give me a break, here, God.
A confident voice penetrated the door. “I’ve been waiting for you, Laina. Come in.”
With a buzz, the handle-free door swung open.
“Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20).