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Title: You Don't Have to be Crazy Dead to Work Here (But It Helps).
Part: 6/22
Author: Jashyr
Genre: Horror/Black Comedy
Word Count: 50,000
Disclaimer: These characters are mine. They live in my head and make me do crazy things like entering NaNoWriMo...
Rating: PG-13? Probably.
Warnings: Some gore. Written for NaNoWriMo last year and while it has been re-edited the punctuation police are still looking at it suspiciously.

Chapter Six

Of Fractals And Pentagrams

Summer turned to Autumn, the nights lengthened and as far as James was concerned his little experiment with the supernatural was going swimmingly. Gordon appeared quite content in his electrified cage, constantly calculating investment figures with an intuition that far exceed that of the company’s mainframe and James was also pleased to note that the surviving members of the management team had accepted the changes to the business as he knew they would. Antoine decided to ignore the fact that anything had changed; Gordon’s presence didn’t impact his part of the business in any way so he convinced himself that it had all just been something of a bad dream – if there was occasional unexplained thudding from the room above he ignored it studiously, going home at night to the best security system he could afford and nightmares he could never quite shake. Barbara was also keeping a low profile after the unfortunately unveiling of Gordon; she completed her work in perfect form but took little part in management meetings anymore and was as quiet as a mouse, closeted away in her tiny little office conversing mostly by corporate email. Piers took Gordon’s presence with all the dignity he could muster. Dr Perez’s requests for specialised equipment to take into account the loss of motor function caused by undeath had created no end of problems, especially as Piers was having a large amount of trouble keeping Gordon’s presence a secret from the rest of the IT staff. A merging of IT and Internal Audit due to the unfortunate "absconsion" of Ged McPherson (his wife had recorded him as missing on the day of his best friend’s funeral and the police were still looking into it) and the appropriate pay rise that this had brought about had gone a long way to pacifying him. April, on the other hand, was fascinated with the sorceries that Reapmore’s employees appeared to possess and was more welcoming to Gordon’s presence than James could ever have hoped. Her enthusiasm for the new working practices led Holt to spend more time visiting the Reapmore offices badgering Dr Perez’s technicians into teaching him small incantations so he could show off his new found skills. On the 10th of October her husband moved out and filed for divorce stating that she spent all her time in work. Neither April nor James was bothered about this change of events. The staff, however, were a different matter.


Two days after April’s husband walked out Marge, one of Holt’s cleaning staff found a half-burnt solicitor’s letter in the CFO’s wastepaper bin and, after spending half an hour moaning to the few members of the IT staff working late that night about how burning papers and dropping them in the plastic bins was a fire hazard, eventually let slip that the divorce filings claimed that April was having an affair with her boss.


“That dirty devil!” exclaimed Liam, “how the hell did those two manage to keep that quiet?”


“Well I feel sorry for her husband,” murmured Kim quietly. “April's been here at all hours. She was still working last Tuesday when we had that backup failure around midnight. I had wondered if something funny was going on but she never really seemed the type.”


“Oh come off it,” said Raj hammering away at his keyboard. “That woman would do anything for a bit more power and you know it. I bet no-one in finance will be surprised when the news breaks.”


“Well Lyn seemed rather surprised when I mentioned it earlier,” interjected Marge as she wiped down the desks with a damp cloth.


Everyone in the room groaned. “Well that’s let the cat out the bag. Lyn'll spread the news to everyone within earshot,” Shona asserted from behind her desk partition. “I don’t know how the office gossipmongers survive when she goes on holiday.”


The office suddenly went silent but for the taping of keyboards as Piers walked past the door to the IT office. All the staff surreptitiously watched him through the glass door panel as he turned towards the lift area.


Marge watched him enter the lift with sadness in her gaze. “Is the poor love still not right? He’s not been himself since Mr McKay died. That bloke needs a good decent holiday if you ask me. He’ll work himself into an early grave if he keeps up this pace.”


“Well when he comes back down from finance we’ll all drag him out to the pub for a couple of pints,” promised Raj, solemnly.


“I’m sure he’ll appreciate that, sweetheart”, Marge smiled at Raj sweetly then moved off to go spread her gossip to anyone left in the sales office down the corridor.


Furiously working away, Kim almost jumped in surprise when the office doors opened with the squeaking of deliberately un-oiled hinges but relaxed when she saw it was only Hella and Pete from Internal Audit.


“Greetings, fellow combined service department collegues!” Exclaimed Hella with a heavy dose of sarcasm.


Pete just grinned at everyone. “So are we going the pub this horrifically boring Wednesday night? It’s just turned seven and your friendly neighbourhood internal auditors are off for a night on the town.”


There was a round of agreements and most of the IT staff started to shut down their computers and pack away laptops. Only Raj and Kim kept hammering away at their work.


“My dear Rajesh, are you coming to drink the night away with us?” queried Hella.


Raj looked up and flashed her a weary smile. “I’m going to wait for Piers and see if he want to go for a drink too. The guy looks like he’s going to drop from exhaustion and we could do with dragging him out of his office for an early night.”


“And you, Ms Ng? Any change of boogieing the night away?”


“Not for me, thanks,” said Kim distractedly. “I’ve got to get this crap working before finance come in tomorrow morning.”


"You got problems with the finance systems?" asked Pete, concerned.


Kim stretched her arms to work out the kinks in her back from sitting in one position typing nearly all day without a break. "The idiots upstairs are making a right hash of inputting the future projections for the new Reapmore contracts."


"I didn't know we'd gone into agriculture."


"Cryostorage", piped up Liam.


"Walk in freezers", clarified Kim, aiming a death glare at the back of Liam's head. “And corporate storage management. These are the guys that provided the big cash injection into the business about three months ago. Technically they hold joint ownership with Holt but I think they’ve bought him out now judging by the BACS transactions of our quarterly profits.”


Liam ignored the barb and grinned conspiratorially at his colleagues. “I looked them up on the Internet and there are lots of rumours about them.”


“Because Internet rumours are always posted by people who know what the hell they're babbling about,” pointed out Raj derisively.


Not even deigning to retort Liam continued. “Turns out they used to make morgue freezers and have made fortunes out of the mortuary industry since Victorian times!”


“So?” asked Shona with a puzzled look. “Someone has to. Otherwise hospitals and police stations and coroners’ offices would just smell like decomposing bodies all day. Not the most pleasant or sanitary environments, do you think?”


“I think it’s nice to have a small company that have survived, and indeed prospered, for so long with such a narrow market,” agreed Hella cheerfully. “They must have a good long term business plan.”


The wind taken out of his sails, Liam’s big denouement turned into a whiny, “but they changed their name to Reapmore from Reapmort in the 1950s. Some theorists suggest that they make deals with the Grim Reaper for the souls of the people kept in their body storage lockers!”


“And these ‘theorists’ wouldn’t be the people who believe that Kennedy was shot by the secret service and that the Titanic was sunk by space aliens would they?” snarked Raj.


“Anyway,” interrupted Kim hoping to change the subject before this turned into a world shattering argument, “that sounds like a perfectly good change; from what I read they were expanding out of morgue equipment into industrial meat freezers, portable liquid nitrogen tanks and ice storage containers.”


“Well I thought it was suspicious,” muttered Liam under his breath as everyone but Raj and Kim started to file out.


Nearly half an hour later Raj was still sitting in the near dark of the IT office, the only light the glare from his monitor. About to give up waiting for his manager, the noise of the lift coming down from the upper floors roused him and he wandered over to the doors to the connecting corridor, only to stop abruptly as he heard shouting on the other side. Pressing himself to the side of the door so he could hear while still being obscured, he eavesdropped on the clamour outside.


The voice that was doing most of the shouting Raj identified as Holt’s. He’d recognise that nasal Yorkshire accent anywhere but to Raj he didn’t make much sense in his rantings. “Watch it Piers,” Holt was practically screaming, “don’t think I couldn’t get rid of you too and get one of your little underlings to liaison with Perez’s lot. Don’t get squeamish on me now, you’ve thrown a lot of cow into that cage recently but don’t think for one second that it won’t stop him for tearing you limb from limb if I order him to.”


“You wouldn’t do that,” warned the soft London accent Raj recognised as Piers. “I know how the system works now and if you so much as touch my department in your little reorganisation I can have the police here faster than you can blink. I’ve set up safeguards on an external email system – if I don’t log on every few days all my evidence goes straight to the police, and,” Piers paused menacingly, “food hygiene inspectors. Won’t they be interested in all those animal carcasses you buy from the abattoir? They’re a lot more tenacious than the police too. What do you reckon you’d get for grave robbing these days? Ten to twelve years in prison where even the other inmates think you’re a sick bastard? Yeah, and that’s even before we get to the weird stuff. Your mates over at Reapmore won’t be able to shield you from his if it gets out to the press. They’ll cut their ties and leave you out to hang.”


“What do you want?” hissed James through gritted teeth.


“Just a promise that my teams won’t be affected by the reorg. I know you’re planning the big trip for the finance department and I want a solid SIGNED contract stating that none of my team will be involved in that fiasco. You’ll need all of them afterwards to clean up the mess anyway.”


There was a long moment’s silence as the two men engaged in a battle of wills until Raj finally heard James acquiesce. “Fine, give me the paper to sign. I leave your precious little IT department.”


“And Internal Audit,” interrupted Piers.


“And Internal Audit,” clarified James, “alone to get on with their jobs as long as neither you nor they interfere with my plans for Finance.”


“Fine,” stated Piers. The papers are in my office.”


Raj heard footsteps heading away from the lift area towards Piers’ office at the other end of the corridor. Deciding that tonight really wasn’t the night to try dragging his manager out to the pub he softly slid back over to his desk in the darkness and picked up his car keys, unnerved enough by the overheard conversation that he didn’t bother switching the lights on. Slipping out into corridor he slunk down to the reception desk to where Errol the security guard was engrossed by a thick leather bound book. "Good book Errol?" He queried, hoping to gain some semblance of normality back before his imagination went into overdrive on the lonely drive over the moors to the Queens Arms where his colleagues were waiting for him.


Errol looked up and smiled at him. "The best, sir," he said in his thick Nigerian accent, tipping the book so Raj could seen the crucifix embossed on the cover. “Have a good night.”


“I certainly hope so,” assured Raj, heading out the doors and into the barely lit car park to freedom.


Down at the Queens Arms, a shabby dive of a public house conveniently near to the industrial estate’s motorway junction, several other employees of Holt were getting thoroughly inebriated. Liam was unsuccessfully attempting to chat up the barmaid, one of the other helpdesk staff, Nathan, was swaying uncoordinatedly to the overly loud music coming from the cheap looking ‘vintage’ cd jukebox in a corner, one of the telesales girls was drunkenly laughing so hard that she could be heard from the carpark while Pete and Shona were sitting in stony silence nursing drinks, both wishing they were somewhere else but for completely different reasons. Pete had tried to start conversations with her but each time his mind had gone completely blank and he forced himself to keep quiet in order not to look like a complete fool in front of the one woman who didn’t make fun of him as a regular hobby.


“Looks like Raj isn’t going to make it tonight so I’m off,” announced Shona as the seven o‘clock news finished on the tiny television hanging from a bracket in the corner of their alcove. Her half pint of shandy was practically untouched. “I’ll see you tomorrow Pete.”


She dodged an unconscious co-worker on her way out to the door and disappeared in the inky night. Pete let his head fall to the table as he acknowledged that, yet again, he’d managed to completely avoid any kind of actual one to one communication with her. Wandering over to the bar he ordered another half pint of the pub’s speciality cheap and nasty bitter and sipped it daydreaming about how the non-existent conversation would have gone. He was still on the same glass and a rerun of the same conversation when Raj trudged into the pub ten minutes later.


“Hey, Raj, over here!” shouted Pete over the sounds of Status Quo on the jukebox.


Raj nodded to him and made his way past dubiously sticky pools decorating the floor to the other side of the bar. “What’s the smell? He asked, sniffing cautiously, an odd mixture of burnt hair and tobacco smoke assaulting his nostrils.


“Liam tried to light up while chatting to the barmaid,” chuckled Pete. “She threw him out of the door so violently he dropped his ciggie on his suit jacket. Ranted at her like a muppet for a while before storming off in a huff. He’s going to have a hell of a hangover tomorrow morning.” He threw back the rest of his drink. “Do you want one?”


“Nah,” said Raj sparing a sidelong glance at the dirty glasses behind the counter, “I don’t fancy poisoning my liver or any other part of myself today.”


“I guess Piers didn’t either. I take it he was busy. Again.”


Raj looked a bit spooked at this and lowered his voice. “Actually he’s just had a massive fight with Holt over some reorganisation plan. It doesn’t like it’s going to hit us but only ‘cos Piers had it out with El Honcho about it. Looks like they may be contracting out the financial operations.”


“Never!” exclaimed Pete quietly, sensibly deciding that the inside of the pub wasn’t really the best place to be discussing company secrets and motioning for Raj to follow him outside into the deserted beer garden where no-one would overhear them. Once he'd checked to make sure no-one had followed them he turned back to Raj. “So did Holt say when the reorg would be?”


“Nah, it didn’t get that far, the only thing I could properly make out was that IT and Internal Audit wouldn’t be affected. There was something else to do with us having to deal with the fallout from the systems change as well. I mean we knew Holt was a slimeball but this is just stupid. He’s sabotaging his own company.”


“Maybe the new owners have ‘issues’ with him,” ventured Pete. “Holt is just about vicious enough to consider crashing and burning his pride and joy if it looked like they were trying to replace him.”


“All I’m saying is to keep your options open. I don’t think I can count on this job lasting for much longer and you should think of your future too. I’d better mention it to Shona as well. Is she still here?”


“No,” Pete looked crestfallen. “She left about a quarter of an hour before you arrived. I don’t think I was the best of company.”


“Did you actually try talking to her this time?” teased Raj.


“It’s not easy you know!” protested Pete. “"You know what they say about redheads, don't you?"


"They're less picky than blondes or brunettes?" ventured Raj.


"She might not like me and that Celtic temperament could make mincemeat of me.”


"To be honest she thinks you're a hyperactive twelve year old with the attention span of a gnat, yet she will still be seen in public having a drink with you. That is a fairly good sign,” pointed out the older man. “How will you get past her first impression if your brain turns to jelly and dribbles out your ears every time you’re in a room with her alone?”


"Don't you have any romance in your soul?"


"I sold my soul years ago. It wasn't doing anything other than keep me up at nights. I’m surprised you’ve still got one. Isn’t having all compassion surgically removed part of your audit degree?”


“Yep but it didn’t cover how to deal with botched operations.”


Raj laughed and started making his way back to his car. “I don’t know what you’re worried about. You’ve got her sense of humour too.” He stopped just in front of his Mondeo and grinned, “but I’d sneak it back before she notices it’s missing. She gets a bit possessive about abstract emotional states.”


Pete grinned back at him feeling considerably better and started his oven drive back home, daydreaming about a much better conversation to have with the target of his affections.


A steady stream of coffee did it’s best to keep the hangovers of a large number of Holt employees at bay the next morning so when Piers called an early meeting of his entire staff there was mostly just a atmosphere of annoyance. Only Raj and Pete regarded the announcement with trepidation. As the co-workers filed into the meeting room Shona came running up, obviously having only just arrived at work. Piers raised an eyebrow at her darkly, “late for work Shona?” he asked “that’s not really like you.”


Shona just blinked at him for a second slightly confused. “Um, actually I’m twenty minutes early. It’s Thursday – I’m on the ten til half seven shift. I have been every Thursday and Friday for the past three years.”


“Oh, of course,” Piers shook his head apologetically. “Sorry, I wasn’t keeping track of days. This week’s been a bit weird.”


A soft chill ran down Raj’s spine as he recalled the shouted conversation from the previous night. Watching Piers he noticed the stress the other man was trying to hide and the almost perpetual look of fear that resided in the back of his eyes. Suddenly worried that there might be something more suspicious going on than two of the board members having an affair he made a quiet mental note to send his CV off to a couple of recruitment agencies later, just to be on the safe side.


“Everyone, can you please pay attention!” shouted Piers ignoring the low groans from a few of the listeners. “I’ve got some news. To celebrate the twenty-five years since the company was founded the management team have been planning parties and things for us all. Unfortunately Finance have decided to be childish about this and are going to Alton Towers, probably because nothing says stable company finance like a roller coaster.” There were a few chuckles at that. ”I, however, thought that Alton Towers was a bit childish and we, as a team, are going to be holding a proper dinner dance.” There was suddenly silence in the room as everyone fixed him with horrified stares. “Yes, I do mean tuxes and evening gowns. It only seems proper. It does mean that we are going to have to wait until a week next Friday while Finance get a day off work on this coming Monday, “ there were groans all round at this, “but we outclass them one hundred percent. So, be warned. I expect all of you to make an effort. Gowns and tuxes, gowns and tuxes.” He turned a forced smile at them, “anyone who doesn’t make an effort doesn’t get to take advantage of the free bar.” The mood in the room changed considerably at this good news. “Shoo. All of you. Back to work!”


Feeling considerably better in himself, Raj shared a relieved grin with Pete. Walking back to his desk he wondered how he could ever have misconstrued an argument over a trip to Alton Towers as anything malicious. Putting it out of his mind he made a concerted effort to force Piers to agree to go down the Queen’s Arms for a relaxing pint with the team at lunchtime.


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September 2010

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