The watchtower, p.1
The Watchtower, p.1Darke Conteur
Written by Darke Conteur
© 2011 Dark Conteur Collection of Works
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I would like to thank Craig Saunders and Jen W. Merritt,
for helping me to create the story
I knew I could write.
The background is by NebelDarkened on Deviantart
The brushes are by ObsidianDawn.com
To Calista Taylor for the cover design.
Napoléon Bonaparte once said there were two motivations to move men; inspiration and fear, but for Martin Cunningham, starvation was a damn good means of motivation too.
Martin stared out the window of the number six bus as it drove toward the downtown core. The smell of grease floated over to him from across the aisle, as an attractive, middle-aged woman sat nibbling on a box of ketchup-coated French-fries. His stomach growled. Broke, hungry, and out of work, he had to find a job soon or he could add homeless to the list. As much as he loved his parents, he didn’t like the idea of moving back home, and the idea of having another room-mate left a bad taste in his mouth.
He fiddled with his fingers, nervously picking at his cuticles. He’d sent out resumes to every business in the city, and not one nibble. Only one didn’t reject his call back, and at his mother’s urging, he called them.
He could still hear the disembodied female voice on the other end. She sounded bored, and Martin figured he didn’t have a chance in hell of getting an interview.
“Terin Global. How may he help you?”
He pictured a mature, grey-haired woman sitting behind a huge oak desk, glasses part way down the bridge of her nose, hair pulled back into a tight bun.
“Yes, I’m calling about a possible job interview.” He tried to sound as professional as possible, hoping his young age wouldn’t reflect in his voice. “I sent in my resume several weeks ago, and was wondering if your company had received it?”
“Martin. Martin Cunningham.”
Then came that long, awkward silence. Martin had visions of her glancing over his pathetic one page resume and filing it in the nearest trash can.
“Yup.” Her voice was more upbeat than he expected. “You’ll do. Come in tomorrow morning around eleven. When you enter the lobby, take the freight elevator up to the twenty-ninth floor.”
“The freight elevator?”
“Yeah, you’ll find it at the end of the corridor to the right of the reception desk. Beside the custodial room.”
Martin shook his head. That was the weirdest phone conversation he’d ever had.
The bus slowed down as it pulled off the road and into the sheltered stop. The morning sun was warm as he stepped out and walked toward the stone fountain in the center of the plaza. The three Terin Global skyscrapers dominated the landscape. The buildings were huge, looming over the plaza like three concrete sentinels. Martin glanced at his watch. He was fifteen minutes early. He wanted to make a good impression, but arriving too early would make him look desperate. Just because he was, it didn’t mean they had to know it.
He sat on one of the stone benches that faced the buildings. Martin knew Terin Global by reputation: an international mega-corporation rumoured to have a clientele list of some of the more unscrupulous leaders of the world. Anarchists and megalomaniacs who, after succeeding in controlling their own small country, decided they wanted a bigger chunk of the world.
He stood and walked over to the middle building, checking his appearance in the reflective glass. He didn’t look that young for twenty-three. Maybe a bit too scrawny through the face and torso, and the cheap haircut didn’t look so bad now that his light brown hair had grown out a bit, but the real question was, did he look like someone who worked at a global corporation?
Have to look the part if you want the job! He exhaled and headed to the revolving doors. Time to find out.
The lobby of the main building wasn’t typical in its design. A circular room with low ceilings, Martin was in awe of the sleekness with its black marble walls, stainless steel trim, and huge smoky grey windows. It felt so regal. Two elevators behind the reception desk were enclosed in a large glass cylindrical tube. Martin watched the elevator for a moment, envisioning himself riding in one as an employee.
“Can I help you?” asked the female receptionist. She seemed nice, looked a little old fashioned with her choice of clothing, and didn’t seem at all interested in dealing with the six or so delivery guys standing off to her left.
“I’m here for a job interview,” he said, trying to sound pleasant. “I’m supposed to take the freight elevator up to--”
She pointed a bony finger to her right. Martin followed her finger and noticed a small corridor off the lobby, flanked by two large kettle palms.
He turned back to the desk and smiled. “Thanks!”
“Hey!” One of the delivery guys stepped out from the line-up and walked toward him. “If you’re going up there, would you mind taking this with you?” He held out a package the size of a bread maker, wrapped in brown paper and string. “I hate going up there.”
Martin took the package from him. “Why?”
The delivery guy walked away, chuckling. “You’ll find out.”
Martin frowned as the delivery guy walked through the revolving doors and out into the plaza.
A voice bellowed from the reception desk. “They’re waiting for you!”
Martin looked at the receptionist, then down at the parcel. “But what about this?”
“Well you might as well take it up with you.”
A loud chorus of angry shouts erupted from the line of delivery men as Martin shook his head and headed toward the side corridor. He barely heard the receptionist’s voice, but whatever she said worked, because they were quiet in a matter of moments. He pushed the button and stood there waiting for the steel doors to open, when the thought struck him: this corridor is too narrow for any type of freight to be hauled through. He turned to the right, but didn’t see any other entrance apart from a door marked ‘CUSTODIAL’. The corridor ended a few meters from the elevator, so where did the freight come in?
He stepped into the elevator and went to push the button for the twenty-ninth floor, but only two buttons were on the panel; one pointing up, the other down. Strange, and the elevator wasn’t big enough to carry anything more than passengers. It was a quick ride up, and as the doors opened, the strong scent of incense struck him. It floated out of several holes within a wooden archway built around the doorframe. Martin was beginning to see why the delivery guy didn’t want to come up.
He stepped out of the elevator, package tucked uncomfortably under his arm, and into a Goth’s dream. Old grey flagstones covered the floor and walls, with medieval looking wall sconces holding drippy candles mounted to the wall. A wrought-iron barrier blocked the corridor several feet in front of the elevator. Its cemetery-like gateway pad locked closed.
Martin stood there, dumbfounded, and wondered if being here was the right idea. He didn’t need this job t
He walked up to the gate and squinted, trying to get a better view of what lay beyond. There was a huge wooden desk, nothing on it, and two wooden doors embedded in the wall behind. More of the drippy candles lined the walls, but he didn’t see or hear anyone.
“Hello,” he called out, shifting the package around to his other hip. “The eleven o’clock appointment is here.”
“And I have a package.”
A low and drawn-out creak came from the door on the right as a young blonde woman emerged. Even in this dim light, Martin could tell she wasn’t impressed.
“Sorry,” she said, as the door creaked to a close behind her. “I should have been out here waiting for you, but I hate this hall. Gives me the creeps.”
He recognized her voice immediately as the woman he’d spoken to on the phone the other day. Perfect hair and make-up, fashionable clothing, pink-lace gloves to match her stiletto shoes. She was definitely at odds with her surroundings.
Martin smiled as she unlocked the pad lock with a huge skeleton key. “I know how you feel.” He handed the package to her. “As do some of your delivery guys.”
She gave him a strange look and held the package away from her body.
“You must be Martin Cunningham,” she said, and shoved the package back at him so fast he almost dropped it. “I’m Barb Dole. Jezryall’s personal secretary. I screen all outside applicants who wish to work at Terin Global.”
Martin frowned. “Jezryall? That’s a unique name.”
“She’s a unique person, and you’ll love working for her.” She shot a disgusted look at the package. “You can give that to her yourself. Follow me, please.”
Martin frowned. “How do you know I’ll like working for her, when I don’t even know?
Barb walked up to the wooden door. “We all do. Now hurry up, she probably has a few things she wants you to do already.”
Martin stopped at the front of the desk and tucked the package back under his arm. “Wait a minute. I thought this was just an interview.”
Barb hesitated before opening the door. “Why would you think that?”
“Because you never said anything about me having the job when we spoke on the phone.”
“Yes I did.”
“No, you didn’t.”
“Yes, I did.” Barb turned the huge brass knob on the door. “I said, ‘you’ll do’, and then told you when to show up for your first day on the job.”
Martin thought back to the conversation. “But how do you know I’m even right for the job?” he asked, walking toward the door. “How do you know I even want this job?”
She gave him a wicked smile. “I just know these things.”
Martin shrugged and walked into the main office. The weirdness of the hall décor continued in there. A cathedral ceiling stretched several floors up with heavy wooden doors scattered around the main floor. There were doors positioned higher up, connected to one another by a wrought-iron walkway. More old sconces with drippy candles lined the walls, and a shiver ran up his spine. It looked as though it had been modeled after Frankenstein’s castle, with one exception: a huge picture window sat directly opposite the door he entered, with a plush black leather chair turned to face the window.
“Jezryall, our new Public Liaison officer is here,” Barb said, as she strolled over to an identical desk as the one out in the hall. There was a pile of fashion magazines fanned out, along with a scattering of manicure objects.
Martin slowly walked toward the chair. “Hi, uh, Miss Jezryall, um, is it?” he stuttered. “I think there’s been some sort of misunderstanding. I haven’t decided whether or not I’m going to take this job. I was under the impression this was only an interview.”
“Were you a member of the debate team at university?” The voice was strong but seductive, with a hint of a Russian accent.
“This means you were good at it?”
“Well, yes. You don’t get to be the Captain unless you are.”
The chair began to turn. Martin’s heart beat faster. How the chair moved, he couldn’t tell, but he knew it wasn’t from the occupant.
“Good. What I need is someone to run interference for me,” she said, “None of us here are any good with dealing with the public.”
Jezryall was stunning. Long, black hair that hung down to her waist, but it was her eyes that struck him. He couldn’t stop himself from staring into their smokey grey, almond shape. He felt as though he were being drawn toward her. She was saucy, seductive. He could see it in the way she moved as she left the chair; her hair falling about her waist as the low-cut, red dress with black lace hugged her well-endowed body. Oddly enough, she was barefoot.
“I’m sure there are others who--”
“No!” She walked toward him, keeping her focus on him. Martin was paralyzed, but not with fear. The way she looked at him made him feel like he was the only one in the world. “Barbara has informed me that you are the one we are looking for. And I trust her instincts completely.”
“Why? You don’t even know me. How can I be right for this job?”
“How are you wrong for it?”
The question left him speechless. What was he supposed to say? Apart from the fact this place gave him the creeps, Martin couldn’t see any reason not to accept it, except for this underlying feeling...
“How about this,” Jezryall said, taking a few steps closer to him. “You work for me for one week, and after that, if you do not want the job, you will be free to go. Two weeks’ pay included, of course.”
His eyebrows rose. “Two weeks?”
Jezryall nodded. “Consider it compensation for your time.”
Martin took a second look around the room. It was creepy, but nothing he couldn’t get used too. At least for a couple weeks. “I guess we have a deal.”
“Good.” Jezryall turned and walked to the other side of the room. “This will be your area.” She pointed to a small desk under the wrought-iron walkway. “I apologize for the sparseness, but you are the first Public Liaison officer we have ever hired.”
Martin followed, placing the package down on the desk. It wasn’t as big as the others, but it was just a temp job anyway. “So what is it that your company does, Miss Jezryall?”
She laughed, deep and warm. “Just Jezryall, Mr. Cunningham.”
Martin smiled in spite of himself. “Okay, Jezryall, so what is it that I’m going to P.R. for?”
Jezryall sauntered back over to her chair. “To the public, we are a private I.T. company with a clientele that spans the globe. In truth, we perform delicate and covert operations in some of the most dangerous territories in the world.”
Martin tried to stifle a laugh at the melodrama. “What? Like military operations?”
Jezryall eased herself back into her chair. “We deal with more…unusual situations.”
“A piece of advice, if you’re some kind of mercenary company, you need lawyers, not a P.R. rep.”
“I have enough lawyers. I need a Public Liaison officer.” Her eyes locked on his again and his relaxed feeling was replaced with a sense of dread. “Because sometimes things do not always go as planned.”
Trying to shake the feeling, Martin turned away. “Okay, good enough. Oh-” He spun around, extended the package toward Jezryall. “I was asked to bring this up to you.”
Jezryall exchanged glances with Barb. “I do not get packages.”
Martin looked down at the label. “But it’s addressed to you.”
“What is it?” she asked.
“I don’t know.” He shook it a little. “It’s light, so it can’t be anything too big.”
Jezryall took a few steps back. “Barbara, would you be so kind as to call Aslin here?” She turned back to Martin. “Please, Mr. Cunningham.” The seductive tone of her voice se
Martin picked up the package as Barb fiddled with her cell phone. It was an odd request, but hey, two weeks’ worth of pay.
In the middle of the floor he found an intricate circle design surrounded by an outer band of strange markings. The inner design looked familiar; like something from a headstone, while the outer resembled some ancient language. His eyes lit up when he realized a multitude of precious gems were embedded within the design. “Are those real rubies?”
With a loud groan, a door at the other end swung open and a tall man entered. He was older than Martin, with a few streaks of grey in his dark hair. A neatly trimmed beard and moustache hid any lines on his face, and his hair hung down to his waist in a ponytail. He wore black pants and boots, and tugged on a white tunic as he pulled it over his torso. He reminded Martin of the hippies he used to see wandering around on campus, and Martin turned his head, trying to hide a smirk.
“You wish to see me, Mistress,” he said. His strong Scottish accent made it almost impossible to understand him. His gaze fell on Martin, and he gave a slight nod before looking back at Jezryall.
“Aslin, I wish to introduce our new Public Liaison officer, Martin Cunningham.” She sauntered over to the circle on the floor. “Mr. Cunningham has brought us a package, and it is addressed to me. Personally.”
The Scot’s eyes grew wide. “How is that possible?”
“It’s simple,” Martin said. “She’s the head of the company.”
“But not on paper, Mr. Cunningham,” Jezryall said, walking toward him. “No one on the outside world knows that I run this company. So how is it possible for a package to be delivered to me here?”
Martin frowned. That wasn’t so simple.
He watched as Jezryall continued to walk around the circle, a long finger pressed up against her lips. It was obvious she wanted to know what was inside the package, so why all this drama?
“I don’t like this, Mistress,” Aslin said, watching her as she stepped around the rim of the circle. “We should burn the package in the hearth immediately.”
“Do you not want to know what is inside?” she asked.
“Not if it’s addressed to you.”
There was a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. “All the more reason to open it.”
Martin shook his head. Arguing over whether or not to open a silly package. This was going to be a long two weeks.
“Look,” Martin said. “If you’re so concerned about what it is, maybe we can figure out what’s inside without opening it.”
The Scot raised his eyebrows. “Agreed. Let Barbara touch it. If she says it’s all right, then it can be opened.”
Jezryall glanced over at her receptionist. “Do you feel up to it?”
“Doesn’t sound like I have much of a choice,” Barb mumbled, and got up from her desk.
The metal of her stiletto heels clicked against the flagstones as she took off her gloves and walked to the centre of the circle. “If I get a seriously bad vibe off this, you’re going to owe me big time.”
Martin frowned as the young woman picked up the box and closed her eyes. “What is she doing?”
Jezryall smiled and strolled over to his side. “Barbara has a unique talent. She is able to receive information from objects with just a touch.” She looked at him with her dark eyes. He felt like putty in her hands. “You will find we all have unique talents here, Mr. Cunningham.”
“Receive information?” he said. “What is she? A psychic?”
Jezryall smiled before walking over to her receptionist. “If you wish to call her that, then yes.”
Martin chuckled. “You’re joking, right? You don’t really believe all that crap, do you?”
A grimace washed over Barb’s face and she placed the box back on the floor and quickly ran behind her desk.
Aslin looked uneasily at Jezryall. “See. We do not open!”
Jezryall didn’t seem to be listening; Barb’s reaction only made her face light up more.
“But what is inside?” Jezryall asked. “What is this thing someone has sent me?”
Aslin turned to Barb. “What impressions did you get?”
At first, Martin didn’t think Barb was going to answer. With her face scrunched up and the way her body trembled, it looked like she was doing all she could to forget. “Big, slimy, keep it out of the water. Ew! Ew! Ew!”
“Oh, well, that helps,” Martin said, walking over to the package. “Couldn’t get any more vague, could you?”
“Mistress, heed my words, this should not be opened.” The Scot’s menacing tone did nothing to dismay his new boss’s curiosity. “Your station within this world is precarious at the best of times, with enemies at your door. It is obvious someone saw the naivety of the lad, and--”
“If someone is trying to hurt me, I would very much like to know who.”
Martin picked up the package and walked back over to his desk. There was nothing out of the ordinary about it; standard Canada Post paper and a mailing label, but if Jezryall was telling the truth, and no one knew she was here, how did they know to send the package here?
“Does the mail room have a scanner?” Martin asked, after a few moments.
“A what?” Jezryall asked.
Martin turned back around, package in his hands. “You know, a scanner. Since nine-eleven a lot of corporate businesses have been putting scanners in their mail rooms looking for possible terrorists bombs.”
Jezryall tilted her head to one side. “You think this could be a bomb?”
“It’s not a bomb,” Barb said.
Martin looked at her. “How do you know?”
Barb might have been beautiful, but the look she gave Martin was as ugly as he’d ever seen. “Because it’s alive.”
Jezryall backed up to her plush chair. The mischievous twinkle in her eyes was gone. “Perhaps we should do as Aslin suggests and burn the package.”
“But I thought you wanted to know what was inside?” Martin asked.
Jezryall curled up in her chair, keeping her gaze on the floor. “Sometimes it is better to quit while one is ahead, Mr. Cunningham.”
Martin placed it down on his desk. “You think there’s something dangerous in there, don’t you?”
She didn’t answer as Aslin walked over and picked up the parcel.
“Look, if this is something dangerous, you can’t destroy it. It’s the only piece of evidence you have to track down whoever sent it. You’ll need to hand it over to the authorities. They’ll have the resources to find out who’s behind this.”
“No authorities,” the Scot said, as he headed for the exit. “We will deal with this on our own.”
“How, when you’re about to burn the only piece of evidence that could lead you to whoever sent it?”
“Aslin, wait,” Jezryall called out. “Mr. Cunningham is right. If we are to learn who is behind this, it must be preserved. We will keep it in the circle for now, until Mr. Cunningham can find one of these scanners.”
From the way the Scot was looking at him, Martin guessed he wasn’t too pleased with the fact their boss sided with the new guy. Martin kept his eyes on him as he walked back over to the circle and placed the package down in the center.
“As you wish, Mistress.”
Martin tried to hide his smirk as he strutted over to Barb’s desk. Maybe it was a good thing he would only be here for a couple weeks.
“Okay, thanks, Lizzy,” Barb said, and hung up the phone. “Lizzy says the mail room in Building Two just bought some new equipment, and she thinks one piece might be a portable scanner.” She played with the receiver in her hand. “I’ll call over and see.”
“Are you sure this scanner will be able to help us, Mr. Cunningham?”
“Well, I don’t know all the technical details, but it should allow us to see inside.” He crossed his arms. “And that might be enough to determine
Barb dropped the receiver on its hook. “Yup, Lucien says Building Two’s mail room got overhauled last year.” She looked pleased with herself. “And new equipment that includes a portable scanner.”
“Great,” Martin said. “Now we just have to go down to one with the package and scan it.”
“Nay, Mr. Cunningham.” There was something about the cheerful tone in the Scot’s voice that Martin didn’t care for. “You have to go over and bring one back here.”
“Me? Why me?”
“Because we can’t risk whatever is inside being exposed to the public, and--” A sly smirk inched across his face. “It was your idea, and as you’re the new Public Liaison officer, it’s your job to deal with the public. Remember?”
Martin cursed softly under his breath as he headed toward the door.
“Here,” Barb said, holding out an expensive cell phone. “If you have any problems, call Lizzy at the front desk.”
Martin took the phone and shoved it in the front pocket of his pants. At least he was getting out from the creepy room for a while.
The Watchtower by Darke Conteur / Fantasy have rating 3.3 out of 5 / Based on20 votes