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07/01 Direct Link
questions, these taunts, but instead he was surprised. He remembered feeling the whisper of fingertips on his cheek, the trailing of these fingertips up to his forehead. Then he had heard Cassie crouching down until she was almost level with his face. If he hadn't been concentrating so hard on feigning sleep, he would have missed the cool touch of her lips on his forehead. He had been shocked. And he had been sure that nothing else Cassie did would shock him after that, but he had been wrong. She had softly murmured to herself, to him, he wasn't sure,...
07/02 Direct Link
but the words had been there all the same. "What did they do to you this time? What did they do, love?" And then with a final brush of her fingers against his cheek, she had stood and quietly walked back to her back porch. He had heard the door open, close and then her footsteps recede into the house. After about another minute, he had opened his eyes and stood up as quickly as he could. Sneaking out of Cassie's backyard and walking, almost running, up the street to his house, he pressed his hand to the cheek Cassie...
07/03 Direct Link
had caressed. Usually his thoughts were jumbled, confused, after a blackout. But on this particular morning, his mind had been clear and focused. One thought had been present inside his head. Just one. Why did Cassie kiss him and what did she have to do with the darkness? Because, as he had reached his door and pushed it open to the dark hallway within, he knew that she was involved. He didn't know if he had always known this, but he believed it now. And as he sat in his chair, the dark lines almost glowing in the gathering dusk...
07/04 Direct Link
on his arm, Jack wondered how and when he was going to confront Cassie. And whether his life was going to be changing once more as a result of this conversation... The building rose up through the air, its copper domed top gleaming in the early morning sunshine. It was a plain, yet stately building, aside from its roof. It sat on the edge of a tree-lined block, extending from Grey St. to Holiday Ave. There were fifteen floors, each floor indicated by a marker on the outside of the building. There were similar markers inside, near each floor's elevator.
07/05 Direct Link
Made of copper and shined to a bright sheen every day, they showed the number for each floor. They were the trademarks of Collins Enterprises. They harkened back to the days when Collin Enterprises was the only business in town. Those days were long gone, but the history and the desire to return to the top were still there. The windows were square and sturdy. Each pane of glass was washed and dried each morning by a team of three window washers. Robert Collins, CEO and the richest man in town, wouldn't stand for anything else. Appearance was everything at...
07/06 Direct Link
...Collins Enterprises. It had been that way in his grandfather's time and in his father's time. The company's status may have changed over the years, but the need to maintain the appearance that Collins Enterprises was still the most important thing in town remained vital. Jack walked up to the revolving glass doors, trimmed in copper. He pulled out his company ID and passed it front of the security scanner mounted on the gray stone wall next to the doors. The light turned green and Jack pushed on the doors, and as they started to revolve, he went through into...
07/07 Direct Link
...the lobby. The lobby receptionist, a short busybody of a woman named Alice, was taking phone calls and directing people to their destinations. Spotting Jack as he headed for the nearest elevator, Alice pretended to be shuffling some papers on her desk. Jack thought this was funny considering even if he did want to ask a question regarding the company or where to go in the building, she would be the last person he would ask. Alice was notorious for misdirection and lost phone calls. The fact that he bothered her actually made his life a little easier. He was...
07/08 Direct Link
...so weird that Alice, a gossip since the age of five, didn't even try and find any dirt on him. It saved Jack a lot of hassle in the long run. Pushing the up button for the elevator, he waited next to another man on his left and a woman on his right. The man was dressed in a shabby brown suit, his tie askew and his cuffs missing their links. He was furtively examining a file, glancing nervously at Jack every few seconds, as if to make sure he wasn't peeking. Jack sighed inwardly. He didn't know if the...
07/09 Direct Link
...man's attitude was because of him specifically or if the man was always this paranoid. Either way, Jack didn't really care. The woman, on the other hand, was dressed to the nines. Everything was in place, from her finely cut suit jacket to the polished high heels on her feet. She exuded confidence and just a bit of arrogance too. She glanced at Jack once, measured him, decided him unworthy of her attention and time, and returned to staring blankly ahead at the elevator doors. The elevator finally arrived and Jack and his fellow companions made their way on to...
07/10 Direct Link
...it. Jack pushed ten for his floor, while the man pushed five and the woman pushed fifteen. Ah, Jack thought to himself, she would be one of the top brass. And Jack thought, looking at the man again, he does look like one of the top-secret accountants we have here at Collins Enterprises. You could tell so much by how a person dressed, how they held themselves in front of other people. But then again that was mostly just surface information. Jack stayed in the back of the elevator, in the corner, as more people piled on to the car.
07/11 Direct Link
The man in the brown suit got off at his floor, muttering to himself and trying to keep papers from falling out of his file. The woman sniffed as if she was glad the rumpled man was gone, no longer contaminating her immediate area. Jack smiled slightly. He had a feeling that for all the nuances a person could have, that that woman was pretty much straight forward. The tenth floor arrived and Jack pushed his way to the open doors. On the way, he accidentally jostled the woman in the smart suit. He glanced at her face briefly, saw...
07/12 Direct Link
...the cold blue eyes glaring at him, and hastily threw out a quiet apology. Then he was out on his floor with the elevator doors closing behind him, whisking the woman to her offices on the fifteenth floor. Jack sighed out loud, muttered "Thank God", and proceeded to walk down the corridor to his office. Jack worked in the processing department of Collins Enterprises. Basically he processed paperwork that came from the lower floors, mostly accounting and research, and then sent it up to the upper floors to be looked at by the executives. He had no say in what...
07/13 Direct Link
...the company did, either in regards to buying, selling, or manufacturing. He just organized the paperwork that showed up on his desk. He was a paper shuffler. And he loathed every minute of it. But it was the only job he had been able to find when he came back to town and he wasn't going to risk it now. Especially since he was able to get away with being late on occasion when he had one of his "special" nights. Jack knew he probably should have been fired for his late tendencies before, but the truth of the matter...
07/14 Direct Link
...was that the man in charge of his department was clueless. Bob sat in his office, drinking his coffee, (which could number in the teens as to amount of cups by the end of the day), calling his various girlfriends and pretending to be doing work. The only time Bob had to be careful was when Cassie made her rounds. Jack paused in front of the glass door, where in dark stenciled letters, the words "Process and Referral Department" stood out. Cassie. The memories came rushing back from the other morning. The cold grass. The pain in his arm. The...
07/15 Direct Link
...touch of her fingers on his cheek. The kiss. Jack rubbed his forehead when he thought about the kiss. He still had no idea why she had done that, or what she was up to, but he was determined to find out. Ignoring his suddenly queasy stomach, Jack pushed open the door in front of him and entered his office. The weak light from the overhead lamp shone down on his face, casting it into shadow. Jack grimaced slightly, as he always did when he entered this hellhole he called his work place, and quickly walked towards his desk in...
07/16 Direct Link
...the corner. It was the darkest, dankest corner in the office and it suited Jack just fine. He was away from every other chattering, nosy, co-worker and was able to work in mostly peace and quiet. He was almost at his desk when another person blocked his path. He had been looking down at his feet, not really paying much attention to what was ahead of him, so he didn't notice the person in enough time. Plowing into them, Jack almost fell over, taking the person with him. Instead he grabbed their arms and managed to hold them upright, in...
07/17 Direct Link
...just enough time. Steadying himself and raising his head to apologize, Jack froze at the sight of the woman in his arms. Shit, he thought. It would have to be her of all people. Holding Cassie in his arms, he felt her warmth seep into his fingertips. He was surprised. He had always figured she had ice in her veins and that she would be cold to the touch. And so the warmth surprised him. As did the expression he caught on her face before she schooled her features into her normal glare. For a few brief seconds, Jack had...
07/18 Direct Link
...seen surprise, then some indefinable emotion flicker across her face. All he knew was that for those few seconds, her eyes had been filled with some sort of warmth for him. But now it was gone. In its place was the usual disdain and disgust she held for him. Jack wondered if he had imagined the other warm emotion before. He was tired and this was Cassie they were talking about. Warmth and regular human emotions weren't a part of her normal makeup. But as Jack disentangled himself from her arms, he tried to ignore the shiver he felt when...
07/19 Direct Link
...her fingernails lightly scraped his arm. He also tried to ignore the memory of her lips on his forehead. The cold, back stiff to the world, woman in front of him was the real Cassie. Not the imagined one in his head. "I'm sorry about that Ms. Collins. I wasn't paying attention to where I was heading. It's become second nature getting to my desk in the morning. I hope you're okay and I apologize once again if you're hurt in any way." Jack winced at the crack in his voice as he hastily stumbled out an apology. He felt...
07/20 Direct Link
...like he was thirteen again, asking Liz Hart to the junior high dance. Why, why did he always get this way around Cassie Collins? Cassie, if it was possible, straightened her back even more and peered at him with her nose high in the air. "Mr. Gates, I'm going to assume that when you mentioned not paying attention just now that it is an aberration on your part, not a normal part of your routine. Collins Enterprises does not tolerate workers that do not pay attention to every aspect of their day and produce the high quality work that is...
07/21 Direct Link
...expected. You have been slacking, as it were, of late and your superior, Mr. Gold, has brought this to my attention. I came here this morning to tell you that you are on notice. From now, until such time as I see fit, you will bring your finished work to my office for my perusal, before it goes to the fifteenth floor. I expect you at 4 o'clock, every day, for the next two weeks to start off. So, you should be getting to your desk now and starting on your work for the day. I will see you at...
07/22 Direct Link
...4 o'clock, on the fourteenth floor. Don't be late." Cassie finished her speech, glared one more time at Jack for good measure, and with a swish of her skirt, she briskly walked towards the door and out into the corridor. Jack stared after the retreating figure of one Ms. Cassie Collins, all the while thinking just one thing. Her title of Ice Cold Princess and All-Around Office Nightmare still held up. He walked the last few feet to his desk and sank down into his chair. Jack glanced at the huge pile of papers on his desk and groaned. There...
07/23 Direct Link
...was no way he could get this done by 4 o'clock, a whole hour earlier than usual. But do it he must. If he lost this job…well it didn't bearing thinking about. And whatever doubts he may have had about Cassie Collins were firmly shut in the back of his mind. It was a fluke the other morning. Maybe she was sleepwalking or sick in some way. Maybe she just didn't know it was him. Either way, the caress, the kiss, the soft-spoken words meant nothing. He needed to forget about them. He had other darker things to worry about...
07/24 Direct Link
...in his life, without trying to understand Ms. Collins. The fourteenth floor arrived much sooner than Jack had expected. He stepped out of the elevator into a vastly different corridor than the one on the tenth floor. There was new paint on the walls and a large bay window opposite the offices, at the other end of the corridor. It smelled new and fresh, not old and dingy, like the tenth floor. There was also unexpected warmth that Jack had been sure wouldn't exist on the same floor as Ms. Collins. Clutching his files to his chest, lest one of...
07/25 Direct Link
...the papers fall out, he turned toward the office door. Walking as if towards his execution chamber, Jack finally reached the door and glanced at the letters on the glass. "Executive Administration Assistance and Research", it said and Jack wondered what exactly did "assistance" mean in this case. Because if the CEO's daughter was only on the fourteenth floor and not with her father on the fifteenth, then things were a lot different than he thought. Knocking on the door, he waited to see if someone would answer. Almost at once, a young woman opened the door and ushered him...
07/26 Direct Link
...in. Instead of cubicles and desks lined back to back, this office was divided into three rooms. The young woman was leading Jack to the room farthest from the main door. Pausing in front of the door, she turned to him and said, "She's expecting you", and then turned around and walked into the second room, shutting the door behind her. Jack knocked hesitantly on the wood door, while clutching his files even tighter in his arms. The door swung open and Cassie stood in the doorway, her ever-present glare firmly in place. "Mr. Gates, you are three minutes late.
07/27 Direct Link
Come in." Jack stepped into Cassie's office and glanced around as inconspicuously as he could. There was a huge window facing him, the view of the park was in the distance. In front of the window was Cassie's desk. It was a spotless, shiny wood desk with decorative legs supporting it. A leather couch sat against the wall, with two perfectly matched pillows in each corner. A table was next to the couch and it held a pitcher of water and four glasses on it. Everything matched and was clean and perfect. It was just the way Jack imagined Cassie...
07/28 Direct Link
...Collins' office would look like. "Please sit down Mr. Gates, " Cassie said, pointing to the other chair in front of the desk. Jack sat down gingerly, afraid of ruining the obviously expensive leather chair. He still clutched the files in his arms and was anxious to get on with this meeting. All he wanted to do was go home and get some rest. The past few nights had not been very kind to him and knew that more restless nights were to come. Cassie sat down in the chair behind the desk and stared at Jack with a contemptuous...
07/29 Direct Link
...look on her face. "The files, Mr. Gates? May I see them now, please?" Jack flushed slightly, forgetting momentarily that the files were the reason he was here. Handing them to her, he was careful not to touch her hands. For some reason, Jack knew that that would be an incredibly bad idea. For the next ten minutes, Jack sat in silence as Cassie examined his work. Every few seconds she would nod or mark something with the fountain pen she held in her hand. What these signs meant, Jack wasn't sure, but as long as it meant he was...
07/30 Direct Link
...closer to leaving, he didn't mind too much. Finally, Cassie finished looking over his work, replaced the fountain pen in its holder and closed the folder. Looking up at Jack, she had a slight crease in her forehead, right between her eyes. Eyes, Jack noticed, that were a strange combination of dark blue and light moss green. Shaking his head slightly as if to rid it of these fanciful thoughts, Jack waited for Cassie's response. But there was none forthcoming. All she said was, "You may go home now, Mr. Gates. I shall expect you at my office, this same...
07/31 Direct Link
...time tomorrow. Good day." And thus Jack was summarily dismissed from Cassie Collins' office and the fourteenth floor. The ground was cold and littered with pebbles beneath his cheek. The t-shirt and light pants he was wearing did nothing to shield him from the cold and the wind crept up underneath to send shivers all over his body. He had never been this cold. He curled up into a ball, trying to conserve heat. It didn't work. The shivers continued to rack his body and for the first time since this whole ordeal started, Jack believed he was going to...