My smile didn’t falter, but my core withered. Cole Andrews was the man in charge, and one of the richest men in the city – if not the richest. This wasn’t part of the plan. I hadn’t prepared for this.
Four Months Later
Anyone else would have been too intimidated to step foot into the fully staffed conference room during the quarterly corporate meeting, especially with Cole Andrews sitting at the helm. But that’s my trick: I’m not just anyone else. I’m anyone I need to be at any time. Right now, that meant that I was Kiona Walker, the secret weapon of the Andrews Enterprises marketing department. Fearless, adaptable, and quick on my feet, I perform borderline magic for these people on the regular.
That’s what I made them all believe, anyway. Backing it up took a little work, and a couple of Saturdays here and there, but it was such an easy persona to slip into while temporarily embracing the atmosphere.
It’s no wonder that it was me who Larry asked to infiltrate the board meeting. Overworked and underappreciated, Larry helmed our merry little band of miracle-workers. Ever since I’d started working here and had to pay attention, I’d pictured Larry as a startlingly thin former frat boy. Standing six foot four, with a perpetual smile on his face and bags beneath his merry eyes, he looked more in place behind a smoking grill with beer in hand than leading the marketing team for one of the most exclusive e-commerce developers in the world.
“You called for me, Boss?” I asked, leaning through the doorway to his enclosed office. While we all had our cubicles, Larry’s office was some sort of constructed, homey chamber that he inherited from the office’s previous leasers.
Larry was already standing, reaching into the inner pocket of his hanging windbreaker – my eyes immediately slid to his motorcycle helmet, in its usual spot atop his bookcase. When I first interviewed with Larry, I hadn’t imagined that he was such a motorcycle aficionado as he wound up being, but it only added to his charm.
But that charm was presently gone. As Larry turned to face me, his characteristically warm expression was stonily grave. “We’ve got a problem. I ran the numbers again, and Coppersmith is about to give Andrews the wrong reporting figures…and I’ve got to run downstairs and put out a fire.”
“Must be a hell of a fire,” I remarked calmly, holding my elbows with arms crossed. That was his polite way of saying Somebody fucked up, and I’ve gotta go fix this shit.
“Little bit.” The faintest glimmer of a smile tugged at his lips. Larry looked absolutely exhausted. I realized that he’d still been behind his dual monitors when I left the previous night. How long was he working last night? “I don’t know how long this is going to take – can I trust you to run the revised report to the conference room?”
I glanced down at the red binder on the edge of the desk. “You’ve got it. I’ll head straight there.”
“Lifesaver,” he chuckled, darting out the door around me.
“Damn right,” I chuckled, watching him give a quick wave of recognition before disappearing down a corridor.
Clutching the report against my chest, I briskly strolled past the small sea of cubicles and offices towards the far door. The conference room wasn’t far – I merely needed to stroll along the edge of the call center, then the programmers’ grotto, and finally down a private hallway to the closed door at the end.
I smiled politely at several of my coworkers in different departments as they glanced up from their work and waved. Although I’d only been here four months, I’d already made some waves with my professional output. It might have put me on the outs with my co-workers, but I got lucky. The company was fond of throwing lavish quarterly company parties, and the timing of my employment meant that the second one was due relatively shortly. To my surprise, the Facility Manager wheeling out the karaoke machine had given me the chance to solidify some casual friendships with the rest of the staff.
Fitting in was always one of my strong suits…
Few of my coworkers dared to step into the Corporate Corridor, our colloquial name for the hallway of private offices to most of the on-site upper management. However, the place virtually nobody dared to go was the conference room, situated behind the door at the very end. Protocol dictated that one does not simply enter the conference room when the door is closed, and to my complete lack of surprise it was already shut. However, I wasn’t about to make the next two rungs up the ladder look like complete idiots in front of the company founder, so I broke the rule and went for it.