Card Challenge: Day 54
Card Day 54: A woman wearing a rainbow-striped skirt reaches for a golden apple.
Linette’s problem was that she knew she was running out of time. The letter had shown up on her kitchen table two days ago, its simple message handwritten in an ornate, looping script. “Linette,” it began, “We would like to offer you the opportunity of a lifetime. Pick up the phone. Call us.”
And so she had, dialing the number at the bottom. A cheery woman on the other end answered, greeting her by name before she could even speak. “We’ve had our eye on you,” said the perky voice, no hint of shame or disgust at the creepy message. She had gone on to reveal things that Linette thought no one in the world knew about, and then gave her the promised opportunity.
They—who they were was never disclosed—wanted to offer her enough money to spend the rest of her life in luxury. The only catch was she had to complete a simple task. They would provide everything she needed, a clearly outlined plan for completion, and full coverage should anything go wrong. Realizing the job sounded too good to be true but unable to pause in her excitement, Linette agreed. And the line promptly went dead.
It was a hoax, a practical joke, she assumed. She was the unwitting patsy while some teenagers giggled merrily in some loud and gaudy bedroom. Of course, her opinion changed when she woke up to a pale grey, metal box at the foot of her bed the next morning. The awareness that someone had crept so close to her while she slept left her frozen there for the first hour, anxiously awaiting the intruder’s return. No one walked in, and eventually curiosity drew her out. She flipped the metal clasps, the sound echoing in her empty room, and looked inquisitively into the dark recesses.
Inside was another letter, this on crisply typed in small font. She set it aside to explore further. There was a small flash drive, two plastic keycards, a pair of thick-rimmed glasses, and a brick of cash. Linette’s heart beat quickly as she lifted the cash up, looking at the stack of $100 bills staring up at her. Benjamin was smiling at her, and she could only gaze back in wide-eyed shock.
She quickly grabbed for the letter, trying to figure out what she had signed herself up for. The “too good to be true” feeling was back in full force, currently occupying a pit of snakes in her stomach.
“Ms. Linette Jones,” was the formal opening to the letter. “We appreciate your dedication to our service. We hope that this may be the beginning of a fruitful relationship. Inside this box you should have found one (1) military grade encrypted flash drive, two (2) numbered and identified keycards for Room 1178 and Room 932, one (1) pair of video recording lenses, and the first installment of your reimbursement for service.
“We have a simple task for you to begin, so that you may prove your dedication to our initiative. First, put on the glasses so we may monitor your progress. This will also help to provide you with a small deal of concealment as they are equipped with video recording disruption capabilities. All you must do is go to the two rooms and do simple tasks. Both offices are within your current office building, hence your current utility. Room 1178 hosts a large collection of mainframes. Find the port and plug the USB into them, then leave the room. Next, go to Room 932. This room should be a plain, but empty office. Take your glasses and break off the left earpiece, and then slide it into the bookshelf, the broken end in between the books. You have until 4:45pm on January 3rd to complete the assignment.
“As you can surely understand, this is a very delicate matter. We assure you, your cooperation in this is for not only your benefit, but the benefit of all those you currently know and work with. However, given the delicate nature of this situation, failure to complete the assignment will result in permanent TERMINATION. “
There was no name or signature, only the crisp words on creamy paper. Linette had gotten up and gotten ready, trying not to think about the stack of bills she had sequestered under her mattress. She shoved the items into the recesses of her purse and went to work.
Now, she looked at the clock, watching the number tick away. It was 4:15pm already, and she felt no more certain of how to proceed than she had two days ago. There was a heavy cloak and dagger feel to it, and, despite the letter’s assurances, she felt certain there was a nefarious plot underway. Still, the final note about termination left a lead weight in her stomach. She had no difficulty reading through the innuendo, nor understanding that she was far over her head.
Linette scooped up her purse with sudden resolve. She could use the money to flee to Mexico or something, put this behind her, and never open an unaddressed letter again. But she had to survive.
She put the glasses on her face, feeling out of place with the heavy frames. A couple of her coworkers gave her odd looks as she walked past, commenting on the new look. She tried to keep her head down instead.
It felt like an impossible wait by the elevators as the lift climbed from the first floor to the fifth. She hoped no one would join her as she waited, because the thought of friendly chitchat brought a wave of nausea over her. The job was possible, she knew, but only if she did not think about it at all. Finally, the doors opened and she flung herself into the little metal sanctuary.
Cheery music piped in, a sharp contrast to the anxiety flooding her thoughts. Linette felt as if the world had slipped off of its axis, sending her into a tailspin without an emergency escape.
The doors opened on floor eleven—it would be best to start at the top and work her way down, she reasoned. Trying to appear confident, she strode down the pale grey hallway, her eyes scanning the numbers on the doors. What would she do if there was someone waiting inside?
Fortunately, the door swung open onto nothing but rows of blinking computers. She was not a tech-savvy individual, but she did know what a USB port looked like. Locating one was difficult amidst all the wires and displays, but she found one and jammed the device into it. At a half run, she fled the room and exited back into the quiet hallway.
It felt impossible, this conspiracy swirling around her. Everyone she passed was simply going about their day, not a thought or care in the world. She felt like she had a gun pointed at her head, forced to jump through flaming hoops. Worst financial decision she had ever made, she decided as she stood waiting for the elevator again.
This time, a man in a suit and woman in a fitted dress were standing inside, chatting as the doors slid open. They barely glanced at her as she slipped into the small cage, pressing the eleven button just above their ten. She imagined he gave her a side-eye as she did it, that there was a brief hitch in the conversation. Just paranoid, she cautioned herself, closing her eyes and breathing deep. Just paranoid.
Stepping out onto the eleventh floor, she saw even fewer people than before. Now it as simply a matter of finding the door and leaving the frame—
“Lin?” she heard from the other end of the hall. She spun around quickly, trying to figure out who could know her here. No one she knew worked on eleven.
Jason from International Services was standing just a few feet from her, smiling broadly. She tried to mimic his smile, but felt her eyes beginning to crack from the pressure. “Jason, hi.”
“Nice glasses,” he said with a knowing smile, his eyes drilling into her. His smile was genuine and friendly, but Linette felt a slight threat emanating from him nonetheless.
“Yeah, my contacts were really bothering me today,” she lied fluidly, surprising herself with the ease. She let her eyes wander, trying to find the door she needed and trying to find an escape for the impossibly inconvenient conversation.
His lips were moving, her were responding out of force of habit, She could almost feel the time ticking away, second by second. “I didn’t know you worked up here,” he said casually.
“I don’t,” she said, barely realizing the words. He gave her an inquisitive look.
“Then why would you be up here, Linette?” Her name brought her back to the conversation, catching his searching eyes. He knew. And she knew he knew. “Go home, Linette,” he whispered, his voice soft and sad.
She responded with desperation. “I can’t.” the words hurt tumbling from her lips, and she could see they pained him, too.
He sighed. “You know I cannot let you do what you were going to do.”
“Jason, I—“ He put a hand up to cut off her words.
“Please, Linette, don’t make me do something I don’t want to do.” She looked frantically down the hallway, down where the door should be. In her mind, the numbers were there, hovering just against that fourth door form the end.
“I don’t have a choice,” she replied, steel in her voice. She broke off down the hall with breakneck speed, trying desperately to reach her target. What she would do when she got there was a giant mystery, but she could only hope that eventuality had been worked out. Instead, however, she felt heavy arms plow into her back, flinging her forward to the cold tile floor.
Pinned to the ground, the glasses busted against the floor, Linette could see her watch from its trusty position on her wrist. “4:48,” it proclaimed cheerily.
I am not too happy with this one. I feel like it is all jumbly, misplaced, and probably rife with logic errors. It was an idea I liked, but then it just wasn’t really working for me today. Oh well. Everyone has an off day. This one was also tough because the card screams Atalanta to me, but I’ve already used that in a few places. So, I was not getting much new from this card. I went with unattainable goals and distraction, but I’m not sure how well it came through. Either way, I hope you found something you enjoyed in reading it. Please feel free to drop me a comment about what you loved, hated, or anything in between. Happy reading!
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.