I woke up, ready for my new job as a secretary at Tech Corp but at the same time I had this uneasy feeling. I didn’t think much about it though since I’d finally be able to pay my rent on time and maybe have some money left over. I thought about what I could put that money towards while I ate breakfast and looked around my messy apartment. Paint supplies and easels covered one side of the living room and scraps of paper took over the desk on the other side. I looked at the time and realized if I didn’t head out I’d be late for my first day. I rushed out to the crowded street, hoping there wasn’t any traffic. Luckily, I got there just in time to meet the manager.
“Genevieve Winston?” he asked while still looking at his clipboard full of papers.
“That’s me!” I responded. He didn’t acknowledge my enthusiasm because he just turned around and started walking away, expecting me to follow him. As he gave me a tour of the building he didn’t look at me, not even a glance. The uneasy feeling I had woken up with came back and it kept growing until he finally brought me to my desk.
“Here’s some papers to organize and file. If you need any help with anything ask your co-workers.” He stated while unceremoniously dumping papers into a bin on the desk.
As he walked away I wondered what got him in such a bad mood. I couldn’t spend too much time thinking though because there was a huge pile of papers I had to get through. When I started going through the papers I realized I had no idea how to organize them. I knew where the file room was, it was just the matter of what to look for in the papers. I looked around and noticed that one my coworkers didn’t look too busy.
I shuffled over and mumbled, “Um, excuse me,” she looked up,”um the manager told me to organize some papers, but I’m new here and I don’t know how to do it. Do you know?”
She seemed to think for a moment and then said, “Those papers are probably different orders for all kinds of weapons. You should organize them by weapon and also by date. In the Archives there’ll be different filing cabinets for the different weapons.” She paused and finally broke the robotic nature of the office, “My names Tara, you must be the new secretary. Genevieve right?”
I smiled, “Right. Thanks for the help.” I turned away but then turned back since I just remembered something else, “Sorry to bother you again but when’s lunch?”
“12 o’clock.” she replied without looking up this time.
I went back to my desk and took a glance through the papers. A variety of weapon orders were mixed together including some reports that Tara didn’t mention. I decided to just organize those by date. Why would a technology company make weapons? I considered, maybe they’re working with the government. I looked at the clock on the wall across the room which told me it was 9:00. Ok, you can do this, I thought before diving into the pile of papers.
The sound of movement around me brought me back to reality. Everyone was heading towards the elevators and I noticed it was 12:00. I glanced at the papers that covered my desk, I had only gotten halfway through the pile in those three short hours. Maybe I should just skip lunch so I can get this done in time, I considered then decided against it when my stomach started rumbling. I grabbed my bag and headed down, but by the time I got downstairs and went through the cafeteria most of the tables were filled. I spotted a table in the back corner and as I made my way there I noticed that some people would look at me and then quickly say something to their group. As I sat down I looked around and this behavior seemed to stop as quickly as it had started. I ate quickly and then took out my drawing pad to kill time since I didn’t want to work while I was technically on break. I continued to work on a drawing of my neighbors cat in the sunlight when I felt a presence looking over my shoulder. I looked up and there was Tara who was still looking at the cat.
She finally realized that I was looking at her and commented while sitting across from me, “That is such a realistic drawing! Is that your cat?”
“No it’s my neighbor’s, I wish I had a cat though,” I confessed and then added, “ Um why were people staring at me?”
“Oh, they were just seeing who replaced the old secretary.” She stated nonchalantly, but when I gave her a puzzled look she went on in a hushed tone. “The old one just disappeared. No one knows what happened to her, not even her family. The really odd thing is the police aren’t even making an effort to look for her.”
I put my pencil down, shocked that this woman vanished and I just took her spot. I started to worry that maybe I’ll be next, but I realized I was getting ahead of myself. Maybe Tara knows more but she’s just not telling me, I thought. “Do you have any idea what happened to her.” I prodded.
“Nope.” She claimed and then immediately started asking about my art.
I answered the questions she threw at me while trying to get a read on her. It seemed like there was something she wanted to tell me. I also realized that while we were talking about the old secretary she kept looking around, I probably hadn’t noticed this before since I was so concerned about my safety. We talked for the rest of lunch and all the way back to our desks. We parted ways when she noticed all the papers on my desk.
Luckily, the second half of the stack wasn’t as bad as the first. While I worked I kept replaying Tara and mine’s conversation about the old secretary, trying to find any clues as to why Tara seemed scared. I was able to finish organizing everything an hour before my shift ended. I brought the small stacks down to the Archives and was able to find their new homes. As I was leaving the Archives I noticed a room off to the side simply labelled as “Employee’s - Authorized Personnel Only”. That’s weird, I thought, aren’t all employee authorized personnel. I didn’t think much about it though since it was the end of my shift. I hurried to my desk to get my bag and leave but someone was already there waiting. Tara was leaning against my desk on her phone.
As I approached she looked up, “Hey I really like your art and I was wondering if you could do a commision for me.”
“Oh, um, sure. I was actually going to go to this really cute coffee place for inspiration. We can talk about your idea there.” I suggested. She seemed to like that so we left Tech Corp and walked over there. The place was crowded from everyone leaving work but we were lucky enough to get a couch in the back.
When we got settled I pulled out my sketchpad and asked, “So what are you imagining?”
She held her hot coffee to warm up her hands and started, “Well there’s this place in Central Park that looks really pretty this time of year, with the leaves falling and the sunlight shining through,” she paused then continued, “If you’re too busy with other things then don’t worry about it.”
“I’m not busy at all, besides this sounds like a fun project,” I reassured her, “Is there a specific spot in Central Park or is it just any group of trees?”
“It can be any group of trees I guess. I just really like the fall colors and the lighting.” She mentioned as she sipped her coffee and looked around. That reminded me of earlier when we were talking about the old secretary.
“Hey, you seemed a bit nervous when we were talking about the previous secretary at lunch. Did something happen?” I prodded.
She jumped a bit when I said secretary and took a gulp of her coffee to compose herself. She then answered, “We used to eat lunch together. Out of nowhere she started acting paranoid and that was around the same time she disappeared.”
The uneasy feeling came back with a vengeance and I felt like I was going to throw up. It took me a bit to control my stomach before I could ask, “Did she tell you why she was paranoid?”
“Not really, but she kept mentioning something about weapons,” her eyes lit up as a memory crossed her mind, “Wait, she did have a meeting with the manager a couple days before she vanished.”
I could be next, I pushed that thought down as soon as it came to mind but Tara was able to read my face.
She lowered her voice as if someone was eavesdropping,“Oh don’t worry about it, just don’t go snooping around.”
Tara quickly changed the subject back to the commission and I was able to find out that she wanted a painting. We decided to talk about pricing at another time since it was starting to get dark out. As I walked home I couldn’t stop thinking about the old secretary and the advice Tara seemed to have given me. Did that secretary get some papers she wasn’t supposed to see? Maybe she saw some top secret government project and she leaked it online. I decided to go with that conclusion since it made the most sense. By this time I was home, working on the cat drawing. I had leftover chinese food for dinner and went to bed early, exhausted from my first day.
The rest of my week flew by and the only time I was reminded of the old secretary was the few times I saw the manager. I couldn’t help but imagine what he might have said to her. Tara and I ate lunch together and everyday after work I took a stroll through Central Park to get a better idea about what she was talking about. I decided to use watercolors since the effect it creates suits the image. On Thursday I was looking forward to the end of the day because I knew that was when the company made a direct deposit to everyone's bank accounts. The day went by at a snail's pace but the time to go eventually came. I ran home and hopped on the computer. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the amount that had been deposited. I then remembered that most of it was going to go towards rent but that still didn’t stop me from checking it again and again. When I went to bed that night the uneasy feeling came back just as I was falling asleep.
Friday morning I woke up in a cold sweat and I got this gut feeling that I should call in sick. I’m probably just coming down with a cold from spending so much time outside. The work day was pretty normal, just a bunch of new orders that had to be filed. I completed everything early and decided to slow down a bit to not get more work. One of the weapons’ filing cabinets was near the ‘Employee's’ room and I noticed that the door was slightly ajar. Tara’s words about snooping came back to haunt me but I ignored that as I slipped inside. It was a small room with only a couple filing cabinets and a desk. I looked through the files and noticed that everything was organized by position. So I flipped to the secretary area and was able to find my slim file. Behind mine was the old secretary’s, Annabel Jones, whose file was pretty thick. When I opened it up I was greeted by the wide-eyed stare of Annabel on her first day, getting her picture taken for her ID badge. Next to her picture I noticed a line that simply stated ‘Status: EXTERMINATED’. I was so startled by that big, red word that I took a step back and almost dropped the file. There has to be some reason as to why it says that. I scanned the rest of the page and came upon the answer. Within the notes it said, ‘Was gotten rid of after finding out the secrets of the company when she witnessed an exchange between us and the Vipers.’ I immediately put her file back and rushed out of there. The Vipers are a group of criminals that basically ruled the streets. They’d been in the news a lot recently for the multiple shootings all around the city. This is probably how Tech Corp makes so much money, I realized, they sell their new military grade weapons to the Vipers. Maybe they sell to other gangs too. I was so flustered by my discovery that I just sat at my desk trying to bring my heartbeat down. Now I’m in the same spot she was in. I looked around to see if anyone was paying attention to me and saw that everyone was focused on their work. I wonder how much others know about this company. I then realized that I should get back to work since I probably looked suspicious not doing anything.
I was able to get through the rest of day without any other unwelcome discoveries. I rushed home and locked the door behind me. I sighed as I sat down at my desk and tried to figure out what to do. My bank account was still on the screen and I realized I had to make a choice. I had to choose between the right thing to do and having a job. Justice or job. If I tell the police what’s going on I’ll lose my job but possibly become famous which could in turn help my artwork sales. On the other hand, I’ll still have a job and be able to make money on the side from my art. I should probably do the right thing though. I was at war with myself. I couldn’t decide what to do with this deadly information. It was around midnight when I decided what to do. As I walked down the street I could only hope there wasn’t already a target on my back.