By R. John Quisenberry
“I tried with the office phones and your cell, but I got a fast busy signal on the phones and your cell kept failing to connect even though it claimed to have signal. I even tried to get a chat window on one of the computers, but the network is acting funny. I keep getting a message that all user accounts are now locked out.” While she related this to him, it took three bottles of water from the bar before Stephen began to feel human.
“Why don’t you take a little nap while I check on the other staff members? It’s been a rough day.”
“Far be it from me to disobey a direct order from my new boss,” she said.
Stephen chuckled to himself as he slipped out the door. He was careful to make as little noise as possible closing the door. As he crept down the hall, the sounds of people talking came to him from the conference room. At first, it sounded fairly normal, but as he got closer, he realized that the voices were closer to a growl. It sounded as if the multiple voices were all coming from people who had throat problems. Peering through the space between the big double doors, he saw that about half of the group were sitting almost unnaturally still in their chairs, while the rest circled them in loose groups. Each group seemed to take its timing and movements from one person who seemed somehow to dominate the group. In the middle, looking down on the clusters of people from on top of the central table, was one man who looked like Dick as he would be in his fifties. He was built like a man who had been an obsessive bodybuilder all of his life. His voice was the one Stephen had heard the most from down the hall. “I am in charge here! My managers and I have decided to take this opportunity to review our employee base. Some of you need a firmer hand. Some of you may need to be retrained. The rest of you will just have to be terminated!” The last was delivered with a tone of savage glee. “Dick! I need you to look into the staff who are not present. Check-in on the ones who were not invited to this lunch first, then work on locating stragglers.”
Stephen dashed down the hall and ducked back into the office where Lorelei was just before Dick came through the double doors. Leaving the door slightly open, he could just see Dick as he came down the hall. His face looked different, angry maybe. Dick seemed very focused on getting down the hall to find the staff the big boss had sent him for. Dick’s stride had changed as well. Slightly hunched over and gliding on the balls of his feet. It was almost the stride of a hunting animal seeking its prey.