It’s been a while since I posted the first chapter of a short horror/paranormal/romance story. The next scene was already in my head but there was so much to do… You’ve heard it all before, the excuses that don’t make a good writer. Haha. But here is the next chapter, for what it’s worth. It’s longer than the first one but I think this is the point where things begin to get more interesting for our main character, Jane. Read on to follow her story…
Five to Five
Five minutes to 5 PM. That was the exact time when an email popped up in her inbox. An urgent meeting invite. Who in their right mind would ask for a meeting five minutes before clock out time? Jane was considering just shutting down her computer and bolting when the phone on her desk rang. She stared at it, eyes wide. Dare she pick up the phone?
“Jane, you better answer that,” Nuala called from her cubicle. She was Jane’s superior.
Defeated, Jane picked up the phone on the third ring. “Thank you for calling Schuyler’s. This is Jane.”
“Hi, Jane! This is Mila, Mr. Grayson’s assistant,” Said the perky, girlish voice on the other end of the line.
Jane didn’t even have an idea who Mr. Grayson was. “Hi, Mila. What can I do for you?”
“Mr. Grayson just wanted to make sure your meeting with him today is still on,” Mila said. Fingers clicking on the keyboard. “He said he sent you a calendar invite but you haven’t responded to it.”
“Yes, well… It’s kind of last minute,” Jane said. “But I can meet with him tomorrow, any time.”
“He said it was urgent AND important,” Mila said. Clearly, she was not used to having someone turn down her boss’s request.
Jane counted one to ten. “All right. I’ll see him.”
“Great!” Mila said. “I’ll tell him you’ll be here in five minutes?”
Freaking fantastic five minutes. “Where’s his office?” Jane asked.
“Oh,” Mila sounded surprised at her question. After an awkward pause, she cleared her throat. “His office is located near the main entrance, the Executive Area. I’ll notify Debbie, the front-desk officer here, that Mr. Grayson is expecting you. Please do not forget to show your ID for proof. Thank you, Ms. Ilysia.” Click.
Jane stared at the handset in disbelief. Executive Area? That would mean someone from The Top had called for her. Heart hammering against her chest, she placed the receiver back in its cradle, opened the email invite and saw who had just called for her. Ethan Grayson, Chief Operating Officer. At that, she felt her knees turn to mush. If her heart pounded any faster, it would fly straight out of her chest. What did a C-level Executive want with her? Head swimming with various possibilities, Jane wondered if perhaps someone reported her. Did she use too much bandwidth listening to Spotify? Or maybe this was about the photocopy machine she managed to accidentally break three months ago. Did that warrant a meeting with the COO of a successful BPO?
Holy. Shit. Jane sank back down on her chair, blowing out the breath she didn’t know she’d been holding.
“Hey, are you okay?” Lucia asked. She occupied the desk next to Jane and over the months have become quite close.
Jane nodded. “Yeah. It’s just –” She looked around their office and dropped her voice to a whisper. “The COO wants to see me. I’m wondering why.”
“The COO wants to see you?” Lucia’s eyes widened. “Wow.”
“I better go,” Jane got to her feet. “Best to just get it over with, right?” She turned to her computer, hit the “accept” in Mr. Grayson’s invitation and then turned it off. She grabbed her tote bag and bomber jacket.
“Bye, Jane,” Lucia said. “Let me know how it goes, okay?” There was a tinge of concern in her friend’s voice. Jane was nervous herself. After all, it wasn’t like every other employee was called on by the COO.
Inside Grayson’s Office
The Executive Area didn’t look like the rest of Schuyler Corp’s entire floor. Jane felt out of her element here, standing on the thick deep red carpet in the middle of a wide waiting area that displayed modern painting in black frames, two black leather couches facing each other were in the middle of the room. On one side was a chrome table that housed a French press, a decanter filled with water, a couple of gleaming glasses, and shiny black porcelain mugs. Jane tried not to get lost within the sofa; she kept sinking. Was she really that heavy?
“Ms. Ilysia, you may come inside his office now,” Mila chirped from behind the huge, u-shaped oak desk near the entrance of the Executive Area. She looked fresh out of college and turned out to be a dead-ringer for Taylor Swift, with her electric blue eyes and red, red lips. Jane felt gauche in her plain white shirt and dark jeans. She ran a hand through her hair and swallowed. In her daze, she forgot to make herself look presentable. She was meeting the COO, for heaven’s sake.
“Thanks,” Jane croaked out, her sneakers making their way silently across the room and into the intimidating black door with a chrome handle. Taking a deep breath, she knocked twice.
“Come in,” a voice called from inside.
Jane turned the handle and stepped inside. The sight that greeted her left her confused and surprised. Or rather, the PERSON that sat behind the big black desk threw her off. She looked around the spacious room. Maybe there was another room where the COO was? Her eyes landed back on the man sitting behind the desk. The corners of his eyes crinkled as he smiled. “Hello, Ms. Ilysia,” He stood up and gestured at the two chairs in from of his desk. “Please, sit down.”
Jane all but ran to the safety of the ladderback chair. She didn’t know how much longer her legs could support her. She risked another glance at the man before her. Then she sniffed the air once, twice. Nothing. No rotten scent. No subtle stench. All leather and… was that Acqua di Gio?
“Would you like some coffee? Juice? Tea?” He had stopped smiling but there was a glint in his eyes.
Jane clutched the edge of the chair. So the devil had summoned her here. It only meant one thing: He knew that she knew. “No, thank you.” She managed to croak out.
He nodded. “Ms. Ilysia — May I call you Jane?”
It doesn’t matter what you call me. You’ll kill me, anyway. Jane thought sourly. Out loud, she just said, “Yes. Okay.”
“Jane,” He said. She could feel his charcoal colored eyes on her, pinning her to her spot. “Do you have any idea why I called you here?”
There it was. No niceties, no politeness, not even a small talk about business. Straight to the point. If she wasn’t so terrified for her life, Jane would’ve appreciated his frankness. “No. Unless,” She sat up straighter and looked him in the eye. “you want to talk about last night. In the lobby.”
He nodded and leaned forward, elbows on the table, hands folded in front of him. “I know what you… encountered that time. I saw it written all over your face.” He smiled. “You have an animated face. I bet you’re a terrible liar.”
Jane didn’t bat an eyelash to show she wasn’t the least bit affected by him, even though her knees were shaking and she was practically about to faint. “Yes, I saw you. What do you want?”
He looked surprised at the brusque tone of her voice. “I want a couple of answers. And I’d appreciate it if you’d give me honest ones.”
Jane nearly laughed. The devil asking her to be honest. This was really something else.
“What did you encounter that night?” He asked.
Jane didn’t miss a beat. “You,”
“Aside from me,” He said, not missing a beat, either.
“It was all you,” She blurted out. “Look, I don’t know why I had to run into you, of all people. I’m not a bad person. I sin, yes, but I don’t think I sin more than the average human. Whatever diabolical plans you have, I don’t want to be any part of it.”
Silence. Jane congratulated herself for her courage to speak up. She only hoped it would be enough to hold on to and last through this “meeting.” Oh, my God. Is he going to torture me? She paled at the thought of the scenes in “Supernatural” — Dean torturing Crowley, Megatron killing Dean, Crowley’s henchmen dragging in a prisoner into a cellar, all beaten up and bloody.
“I think you misunderstand this,” the COO said, his voice so low that Jane barely heard him.
“The rotten stench coming off you that night. The hint of sulfur in the air. That was you,” Jane said. “So yes, I did encounter you, Mr. Grayson.”
He nodded, looking pleased. “Yes, yes. So you did smell that, too.”
Um, what? Jane was thrown off track for the third time that day. “Too? What do you mean ‘too’? There was only you and me that night.”
He chuckled. “I see it now. You think I’M the one who smelled of stink and sulfur.” His chuckle began to grow to laughter. His wide shoulders shook.
“I don’t see what’s so funny,” Jane said, trying not to snap at him. Irrationally, her though was, This man is still the COO. I don’t want to give him any reason to fire me.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you,” He stopped laughing. His dark eyes were back on her face again. She swallowed hard. Those eyes could scorch someone. “Jane, I am not a devil in disguise. I called on you because I smelled the faint traces of the devil in the air that night, too.”
“You knew my name back then,” Jane said. She was not going to get suckered by a devil.
He quirked an eyebrow. “You were still wearing your ID that time.”
Jane flushed. “That doesn’t negate the fact that you showed up when the… scent was there.”
“I can understand why you would jump to that conclusion,” He nodded. “Here’s the explanation: The devil himself had just left the lobby that time we both stepped into it. That is why we both smelled it.”
“I cannot believe I am talking about this with you!” Jane exclaimed, not being able to help herself. She bit her tongue to keep from saying anything more.
“I can say the same for myself,” He said. “Jane, I have called you so that you can help me.”
Jane crossed her arms. “I’m sorry, Mr. Grayson, I don’t do exorcism. I don’t even have any form of sixth sense.”
“Please, call me Gray,” He said, grinning. Jane tried not to drool. “I just need you to help me catch the devil.”
“Catch the devil,” She parroted slowly. “Sure. That’s easy. Would you like fries with that?”
Gray’s grin disappeared. “Jane, this is serious business. There is a devil out there, among one of us in this office. It needs to be stopped. Do you understand how dangerous, not to mention frightening, it is to have a devil near us?”
Upon hearing his words, Jane felt cold. A devil. A real devil among them. She shuddered. “My apologies, sir. It’s just — I mean, I don’t even –” Scenes from the movie “Exorcism of Emily Rose” flashed across her mind. She gave another shudder. “I’m not the person capable of helping you. Like I said –”
“Jane, you already smelled his scent. Do you think everyone else has that ability?” Gray interrupted her.
“I don’t know,” Jane said in a whisper.
“Help me track it down,” Gray said. “Once this is all over, I’ll never bother you again.”
“Why is this so important to you?” Jane asked.
Gray pretended not to hear her. “Can I expect your cooperation in this one, Jane?” Ever the businessman.
Jane sighed. “Do I have a choice?”
The blinding, charming grin that lit up his face was back in full-force. Jane fought the urge to shield her face. “Thank you,” He said. “You can meet me tomorrow to discuss this further.”
“Tomorrow is a Saturday,” Jane pointed out.
“I know that,” Gray looked at her as if she was daft. “Does brunch sound good to you?”
Jane felt her jaw drop. “Um… Maybe we can meet in your office on Monday?”
“No,” Gray shook his head. “People will wonder why I call on you so often when I clearly have no business with you. People will wonder and then talk.”
“Ah,” Jane began to see his meaning. “Okay. Brunch tomorrow is fine with me. McDonald’s?”
Gray pursed his thin lips. “Maybe somewhere not a fastfood?”
Jane couldn’t help grinning at his reaction. “You got something against fastfood?” The moment the words were out of her mouth, she wanted to smack herself. That was NOT how you talk to the COO. To her surprise, Gray didn’t seem to mind.
“It’s not healthy,” He said. “Let’s meet at Masen’s Garden at ten-thirty AM.”
Jane was horrified. “That’s too expensive for me,” The man was nuts. A breakfast plate there cost an arm and a leg.
“I’ll pay for it,” Gray said with a wave of his hand, as if that was an information he couldn’t be bothered with. He glanced at his computer. “I need to wrap up our meeting. Do you have any questions?”
“Yes. A lot,” Jane said. “But I’ll save it for tomorrow.”
Gray smiled at her. “I’m not expecting otherwise,” He stood up and held out his hand. “It was good meeting you and talking with you, Jane. I hope we’ll get this sorted out soon.”
Jane shook his hand quickly and firmly. “Same here.” It was all she could say. What else could she say after finding out that their COO was recruiting her to be part of a Scooby Doo gang?