A seal upon your heart, p.7
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       A Seal Upon Your Heart, p.7
 

           Pepper Pace

  “Hi. Nice to see you again,” Jane said, not sure if that statement was true or not.

  “Claudette.” The lady said, re-introducing herself. Claudette appeared to be in her forties, plump and pretty with a round brown face and big brown eyes. Her coifed hair was neat and her dress nice but more on the casual side then the way Jen dressed.

  “I’m happy I saw you. I was planning to pay you a visit today.”

  “Oh?” Jane was surprised.

  Claudette’s brow gathered. “Do you have a minute to talk?”

  “Yeah,” she was curious. “I was just getting Tim something but I see that they don’t have donuts-”

  “Oh, there’s a coffee shop down in the lobby and they sale donuts and pastries there. It’s usually crowded but they do have good ones. I’ll show you, and then we’ll have time to talk.” Jane gave her an appreciative smile.

  “Thanks Claudette.”

  Claudette gave her a sideways look as they walked. “What do you think of Tim?”

  Jane thought about that before answering. “He seems sad, but now I understand about his wife’s death. Still you can tell that he’s a good person.”

  Claudette smiled. “I’m happy to hear you say that. The other girl doesn’t get it. But I’ve been here for over 15 years and I knew Tim’s wife—we all did. She worked with him even though she could have sat at home on her butt like so many do. And I’ll tell you now, Tim is good people.”

  Jane listened closely as they walked. “He loved her a lot, didn’t he?”

  Claudette looked sad. “Yes he did. He would say, ‘I need-’ and she’d say, ‘Honey, I put it on your desk.’ And it would be there. He really did depend on her a lot. And if sometimes he seems difficult, that’s the reason.”

  “Thank you for that, Claudette.” But she had already figured that out. They entered the coffee shop and it was indeed crowded but the line moved fast. She scanned the display for pastries and saw that the pickings were slim for donuts.

  “Ugh…they only have chocolate ones and…I don’t know what that is.”

  “Get him a slice of the lemon loaf.” Claudette said with a smile.

  “Yes?”

  “Corrine got it for him when they were out of donuts.”

  Corrine. Jane tried to imagine Corrine standing in this very line ordering a pastry for Tim and it sent a jolt down to her bones when she realized that she was now the ‘keeper of the torch’.

  “Jane, the reason I wanted to talk to you is because I…realized what you were saying the other day, when you mentioned living near Kigali. I know the others didn’t put it together, but my church took up a collection to send to Rwanda and the charity had set up a base in Kigali.” Jane glanced at the woman who had been nice enough to give her information about Tim but she really didn’t want to talk about living in a refugee camp and what it was like to survive genocide. She understood the curiosity at the same time that she resented it. Would people ask these questions of a person that had survived any other tragedy? What was it like? Sometimes she would want to scream, what do you think it’s like to have everyone around you die—and not even be able to remember how?

  Jane’s eyes darted away and around the room until Claudette touched her hand. “Jane, I didn’t want to stir up unpleasant memories. I wanted to tell you to watch Jen because she has been telling your business to everyone; well those that listen to her.” Claudette’s lip twisted. “I don’t like that one, but that’s neither here nor there. I would have told you this anyways, but the fact that you are doing good by Tim makes me even more inclined.”

  As Jane’s emotions began to settle she offered Claudette a shaky smile. They got to the head of the line then and Jane ordered 2 slices of the lemon loaf to be placed in separate bags. Jen didn’t really know any of her business, though. So she had gossiped about her life in a catholic girl’s school. Jane didn’t care about that.

  “Listen,” Claudette said after Jane had paid and they were leaving the shop. “I know you overheard some people saying things about you.”

  Jane frowned. Now that caught her by surprise. “How do you know all of this?”

  “Because Rangbo, Singleton, Bradbury and Marx is a small little world unto itself. And there are very few secrets in this small little world, especially for us long-timers. There are those that come out of the temporary service and they are the short-timers. They will get a call to work at another place, fill in an empty slot. But those like me, Diana, Lois and a lot of the others that have been here for ten or more years know the real deal.” Jane listened intently.

  “Please don’t be discouraged. I know it’s not easy. But you seem like a nice person and not everyone here…” They entered the elevator and it was filled with people so Claudette waited until they were back on their floor before she continued. “Not everyone here acts or thinks like Jen.”

  Jane was touched that Claudette had made a point of talking to her about this. She smiled her appreciation. “But you are going to have to do something about those shoes.” She whispered. Jane laughed. She would make an emergency visit to the donation bin when she got home tonight. Maybe she would find something suitable until she got paid.

  It was probably not something normally done in the office, and more than likely probably a little strange, but Jane reached forward and gave Claudette a hug. “Thank you,” she whispered. She wanted to make Claudette aware that she wasn’t offended by her comment about her shoes and she found that she didn’t care what anyone thought of it.

  “I’m Aaron Rangbo’s Assistant. If you need anything ring me. My number is in the directory.”

  “I will.”

  Jane had a pleased smile on her face when she knocked on Tim’s door and placed the bag containing his pastry on his desk. She also placed his change and the receipt there.

  “Sorry, Tim, no donuts but I got you a slice of lemon loaf pound cake.”

  Tim smiled. “Thank you, Jane.” Thank Claudette, she thought, because you very nearly got a bear claw from the vending machine.

  CHAPTER 10

  “Tim, Mr. Rangbo is here to see you.” Jen’s voice came over his speakerphone. He checked his watch for the time. Damn what did Aaron want! He didn’t have time for this when he was trying to write the legal brief. It was something he and Corrine always did and now…he just couldn’t seem to get a handle on it.

  “Send him in.”

  Tim stood and shook the hand of one of his partners. Aaron Rangbo was in his sixties and approaching retirement. He always looked tired and he talked like Ben Stein. Tim never understood how anyone could sit through his arguments unless he won cases because people just wanted him to shut the hell up. His nick-name was Eeyore after the slow talking stuffed animal from Winnie the Pooh.

  “How can I help you, Aaron?” And why didn’t you just call for chrissakes??

  Aaron sat down, not taking the not-so-subtle hint. “Is there a reason that you have two assistants?”

  “Why do you ask, did you need to borrow one?” Tim took his seat again since this might take a while.

  “Hardly. Claudette barely has enough work as it is. She spends more time in the canteen than she does behind her desk.”

  “Yeah, and you wouldn’t know what to do without her.”

  “True.” He became thoughtful. It was rumored that Claudette was more than just Aaron’s assistant. Tim believed it to be true, though he didn’t understand how Claudette could tolerate pillow talk with the man. “But you didn’t answer my question.” Aaron continued.

  “That was a real question? Sheesh, man, I thought that was a segue.” He raised his brow, then glanced at the door and lowered his voice. “I just want to make sure Jane knows the ropes before I let the other one go.”

  “Ahh, so it is true.”

  “True?”

  “That you have one assistant training her replacement.”

  Tim sat back in his chair. “Well…”

  “And they both know it.” Aaron got up to leave
and Tim was preparing to tell him to wait when he finished his thought on his own. “And one is making life a living hell for the other.”

  He could only sit there stunned at those words. Well…he should have anticipated that, shouldn’t he have? He’d screwed this up royally. Corrine would have thumped him on his head and said, ‘What were you thinking?’

  He walked Aaron to the door and looked at Jen and Jane. They were quiet as they worked and he realized that the quiet was filled with tension. Well why the hell hadn’t he noticed that before? He glanced at his watch. He had to deal with this right now.

  “Jane. May I see you in my office?”

  “Sure, Tim.” She grabbed a small pad and ink pen. Then she followed him into his office with her shoes making soft squeaking sounds. She tried to walk quietly, but that just didn’t help. She moved to sit down and Tim stopped her.

  “You don’t have to sit down.” He had shut the door and was staring at her with a look of displeasure. She tried to think if she’d done something wrong. When Tim was angry his body seemed to take up the entire room and he reminded her of a bull; like you didn’t want to turn your back on him because he was one moment from charging.

  “Jane, I just have one question for you. Has Jen been making it tough for you here?”

  Jane’s mouth parted in surprise. It was a yes or no question but she felt that there was more to the answer than just yes. She finally closed her mouth while she thought about her response.

  “Yes.” She finally said.

  Tim seemed even unhappier. “Well I’m sorry for that. But…why didn’t you come to me?”

  “I…didn’t know that I could.”

  His eyes dropped to the carpet. “You can go. Tell Jen to come in.” She gave him a worried look and he cracked his knuckles, a serene look crossed his face but there was something very cold in his eyes. “It’s okay.”

  She left his office and sat down in her seat, the one without the typewriter because Jen had hogged it up all day even though there were plenty of things that she needed to type. It meant that Jen hadn’t done any of the other work—leaving it for Jane.

  She gave the other girl a sideways look. “Tim would like to see you in his office.” Jen gave her a curious look.

  “About?”

  “Could you log out of the computer please, so that I can use it?”

  Jen did with a mean sigh. She stood and rapped on the office door. Jane sat down at the computer and noticed that her account was locked. She frowned. The last time she’d signed on she hadn’t had any problems. She read the message closely.

  THERE HAS BEEN TOO MANY FAILED ATTEMPTS TO LOG IN. PLEASE CONTACT YOUR ADMINISTRATOR.

  The muscles in Jane’s jaw tightened. Jen had been trying to log into her account. Thank God she’d changed all of her passwords after Jen had been acting so ugly. She picked up the phone to call the administrator and was verifying information when two security guards came up.

  Jane looked at her computer and thought, what did she do with my accounts?! She looked warily at the two guards, but they weren’t there for her. After a brief nod they knocked on Tim’s door and entered without waiting.

  Everyone on the floor was craning to see what was happening. What Jane didn’t realize is that generally when a temp was let go they were contacted directly by the temp agency who gave them instructions not to return. It was very uncommon for an executive to handle something like that.

  Jane hadn’t done anything wrong but she wished that she wasn’t here right now. She especially didn’t want to see Jen being escorted out. Still, she was curious about what was going on in the office.

  Tim was sitting at his desk when Jen had walked in.

  “Sit down, please.” He said casually.

  She took a seat, holding a note pad and pen.

  “Jen the closing argument was typed perfectly. Not a word out of place.”

  She smiled. “Thank you.”

  “You typed that?”

  “Well…yes.”

  “I see.” Tim teepeed his hands in front of him and watched her. “That’s the kind of work that I’m looking for here. As you probably know I really can’t use two assistants. I need to let one of you go. But,” he placed his hands flat on his desk, “I wanted to give you an opportunity to tell me why I should select you over Jane?”

  Jen licked her lips and then leaned forward. “Tim, frankly, I didn’t want to say anything. Jane is a nice lady, but she’s kind of lazy. I end up doing a lot of the work in the office, or I have to correct her work.”

  “Give me an example.”

  Jen looked up at the ceiling for a moment. “I’ve had to do the typing. She scanned several documents that turned out blank. Tim I really think she scanned the wrong side. She’s also not very careful with the files. I’ve had to fix them.”

  Tim nodded. “I see. Why didn’t you tell me any of this?”

  “Well I knew that she was still learning. But in some ways…” she gave Tim a discreet look. “I don’t know if she’s the right person for this job. You know she lives in that convent. I have no problem with it, but…she does carry a bible.”

  Tim’s brow went up. “She carries a bible?”

  “It’s in her drawer—I know that only because I had to get ink pens and saw it!” Knowing that she had Tim’s full attention, Jen leaned back and re-crossed her legs.

  “Well?” He finally said after a prolonged pause.

  She seemed confused. “I’m sorry?”

  He scowled. “You haven’t told me anything about why I should keep you. Honestly, you’re not the best typist.”

  “Well, that one report-”

  He raised a halting hand. “That was the worst excuse for typing I’ve ever seen. But even the ones before that were filled with typos. I let them go because no one but me had to see them. Of course this last paper that you turned in; flawless. So, I suppose everyone deserves a learning curve.” Jen’s defensive posture relaxed. “But…” he gave her a cold stare. “You’re a bit of a gossip.”

  The young woman’s mouth flew open. “Jane is lying if she said I was the one that was…”

  Tim waited. “Was?”

  Jen leaned forward again. “She doesn’t…dress very office professional. Some of the girls have said things about it and about the way her shoes squeak. But I did not say any of that, it’s petty and I take pity on her. If her…feet weren’t so big I’d give her some of my shoes.”

  Tim pressed a button on the phone. “Security, I’ll need a terminated employee escorted out.”

  “Right away Mr. Singleton.”

  Jen sat up straight. “Tim, I can assure you that Jane has been lying! I’ve not done anything to her-”

  “Jane hasn’t told me anything about you.” Jen’s mouth parted. “You spent more time shooting her down then selling yourself—and that’s only because you can’t. I think Jane is the one that figured out the filing system. And it’s certainly Jane that is the more proficient typist. I believe that Jane has been doing the majority of the work…and probably fixing your errors. She doesn’t try to take credit for it, either. She hasn’t once taken credit for doing anything around here; except, perhaps making the best cup of coffee that I’ve had in ages.”

  There was a knock at the door and Tim came to his feet. Security entered and Tim gave her a dismissive look. “Please collect your things and your things only. And the notepad and pen you’re holding; leave that right there on my desk.”

  “Ma’ame. Follow us.” Jen’s mouth was still hanging open in total surprise. She got up and was escorted to the cubicle and allowed to get her items from her cubby, along with the photograph of her dog NuNu and some other trinkets there.

  Jane was standing at the wet bar so that she wouldn’t be in the way. Jen wouldn’t meet her eyes and Jane took no pleasure in seeing her like this. She was escorted out while everyone quietly watched.

  ~***~

  Every one of Jane’s accounts were locked…which was actually a g
ood thing because that meant that Jen hadn’t been able to access them-- and she made sure to check anything of hers that Jen could have had contact with. She called Tim and explained what had happened. She heard him cursing. He told her to call IT to take the entire computer. She heard him saying to himself that he wouldn’t put anything past her.

  “How far are you behind?” There wasn’t a question of if, just how far.

  Jane was honest. “I don’t think Jen has done any of the things she said she would.”

  “Christ. You’ll need to come into my office and you can work under my account.” After hanging up the phone he realized that he’d said Christ. Wasn’t that considered blasphemy or something? Shit, he’d have to watch his language. Damnit.

 
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