Warren & Gardner, Inc.
I wake up the following morning and decide to give a shot at calling the number that Sebastian had given me. I stare anxiously at my phone screen, my throat feeling dry, and I type in the numbers on the touch screen. I wait as the dial tone sounds and the line begins to ring. As the tone continues to sound, my heart races faster and faster. I continually wipe my clammy hands on my shirt in an effort not only to dry them, but to also calm my nerves. Finally, after several rings, a woman’s voice cuts through.
“Hi, you’ve reached Ebony. I’m not available right now, so please leave a message after the beep.”
Wait a second... This is a personal number? I guess I was expecting an office number or something. How awkward.
“Oh. Uh, Hi there. My name is Jace Goth. My friend Sebastian Valentino referred me to you last night for a job position. Um, please give me a call back at this number. Thanks.”
I hang up immediately and exhale a long and extended breath.
“Wow. Even though she didn’t answer, that felt extremely nerve clenching. Well, whatever. I suppose there’s nothing I can do about it now except hope I get a call back. I suppose in the meantime, I can grab me a drink. I am rather thirsty.”
I walk into the kitchen and open the fridge to grab one of the few remaining pouches left inside.
“Oh, right. I totally forgot that I need to go out and get more ‘supplies.’ I suppose these should be enough to last me until at least tomorrow night.”
I poke a straw through the pouch and drink from it as I close the fridge. I stare off into nothingness as I casually sip the blood, my mind wandering aimlessly. After finishing the meal, I toss the emptied pouch into the garbage, and decide to continue my job search for the rest of the day. I lazily approach my desk, turn on the TV for background noise, and I flip open my laptop to start my hunt.
“…Here’s the weather outlook for the week. We are expecting clear skies for the rest of the day with a high of 96 degrees…”
Let’s see… Oh, there’s a position open at a late-night restaurant in downtown Prism District. Maybe I can apply there.
Oh wait, there’s also a spot open at a local bar…
…I don’t think I can ever step foot in a bar or club again…
“…An investigation is underway to locate the whereabouts of three people who have been reported as missing since last week. Local police have responded that there are currently no leads on the whereabouts of the missing individuals…”
Hm. There’s always something crazy going on in this city. Nothing ever really surprises me anymore.
A few hours pass by as I begrudgingly continue my online search. I can feel my brain turning to mush as I push myself to get in as many applications as I can before bed. I lean back in my chair and moan loudly.
What’s the point of being a vampire if I still have to have a job like everyone else? This is so lame.
Suddenly, my phone rings loudly, startling me in the process. I reactively answer the call without checking the number.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Goth,” says a stern sounding female voice. “I am sorry for getting back to you so late. I wanted to talk to you about the job offer you had called me about.”
“Oh! Yes, yes. Um… is the position still available? I tried to call you as soon as –”
The woman immediately cuts me off. “Yes, Mr. Goth. The job is still available. We have received no other applicants and we need someone to fill the position as soon as possible. You did say that you were an acquaintance of Mr. Valentino, correct? I just need to be sure.”
She has a rather unusually persistent and cautious tone, and although I know Sebastian’s last name, I have never heard someone refer to him in such a professional way. This woman sounds like the exact opposite of what I would expect from someone who is an acquaintance of his.
“Um. Yes, I am.” I respond suspiciously.
It seems rather – strange – that she is cautious to make sure I was referred by Sebastian specifically. It feels sketchy, but at this point I feel I have no other choice. I just hope I’m not going to be some hit man or get pulled into some sex trafficking scheme. Guess I should have asked Sebastian beforehand what the job was. Oh man.
“Um. just out of curiosity. What exactly is the job?” I quickly ask.
The woman pauses for a moment, probably deciding how much of an idiot I am for not figuring this out beforehand.
“My apologies. It’s an entry level position that needs to be filled as soon as possible in the Warren & Gardner, Inc. office. I am Ebony Gardner. I lead the company’s HR department, while my business partner, Jefferey Warren, is the CEO.” She replies with a very serious tone.
“Wait! You mean, THE Warren & Gardner?!” I respond with excitement.
Ebony lets out an irritated sigh while ignoring my enthusiasm. “As I said, we need someone to fill this position as soon as possible. I apologize for the short notice, but if you are able to come by the office this evening for an interview. I will be able to speak to you around 9 p.m. I will also quickly evaluate your resume in person, and if hired, my manager Alexandra can brief you on the job as well as the duties and requirements. Do you have any questions, Mr. Goth?”
“Well, I –” I start to say before she suddenly cuts me off.
“Great. The interview will take place at the main office building at 515 Jefferson Street. Make sure to bring an I.D. card for the lobby security. I will make sure to inform them of your arrival beforehand. Our office is located on the 12th floor. I look forward to seeing you this evening.”
I then hear the sudden click of her hanging up the phone. I remain still for a moment with the phone still near my ear as I try to process what just happened.
“Wow. That was intense.” I say as I place my phone on the desk.
“That woman seemed very… intimidating. Yikes.” I say as I think about how terrifying the interview will be. Then, it hits me.
“I have an interview!!” I well up with excitement again. “It seems scary from her tone, but maybe it won’t be so bad? At least it’s a job!”
Then, I quickly get a bit of anxiety. “Oh wait! I need to figure out what I’m going to wear. What time should I leave here to get there on time?”
My mind quickly snowballs into an anxiety filled panic as I meticulously plan out when to leave and how to dress. A few hours later, after multiple back-and-forth transitions of “frantic basket case” and “overly confident douchebag,” I style my hair and put on my best outfit. I check the time on my phone to make sure I’m not running late, then I grab my backpack and head out the apartment. I quickly descend the stairs into the lobby and make my way towards the exit. As I head towards the door, it dawns on me that Sebastian isn’t hanging around like usual.
“Huh. I guess he’s not home tonight. Oh well. I can remember to thank him next time I see him.”
I exit the building and am ambushed by the humid, night air.
“Great. I hope I don’t start sweating in my suit. The last thing I need is to show up to and interview already drenched in sweat. Hopefully, I can get to the job interview before that happens. I suppose if I do sweat a bit, I can try to freshen up in a bathroom before the interview.”
I speed walk down the usual route while also trying my best not to scuff my shoes on the broken sidewalk. I pass the usual groups of people sitting outside while shooting the breeze. I cross the street and traverse the walkway leading towards the subway station, while simultaneously avoiding the slow-paced pedestrians. Some of them randomly stopping in front of me as they either peruse the dirty street vendors’ merchandise, or to start a drug-fueled argument.
“I hate you, you son of a bitch!” One man in rags screams at another.
The other man replies with astonishment, “What!? Why!?”
“We were driving in your car yesterday in the Sahara Desert, and you just left me out there to die!”
Never a dull moment in this city.
I finally reach the subway station after passing another man who is attempting to waltz with a tree, and I quickly descend the stairs. No matter how many years I live in the Prism District, I will never get used to the – interesting – people who live here.
Once on the train, I quickly take a seat and try to keep to myself throughout the bumpy ride. After a few stops however, one man pushing a rusted shopping cart filled with multiple bags boards the train. Everyone’s attention is immediately averted toward him as begins to loudly mumble incoherent words. Other passengers awkwardly shuffle as far away from the man as comfortably possible.
Great. Just what I needed today.
I finally reach my stop at a platform overfilled with people impatiently awaiting the train’s arrival. As the doors open, I struggle to push myself a path out of the train as the crowd rushes through the doors. After making it through safely, I angrily straighten my outfit before walking towards the stairway. I ascend the stairs until I reach the main hall of Central Station, a large dome-like building that is comprised of marble floors and is populated with tourist-focused shops. I look up in awe to see that the ceiling stretches upwards for quite a few dozen feet and is intricately designed with multiple beams of metal that twist and turn in weird ways to meet in the pinnacle of the ceiling. I can hear the echoes of voices and footsteps bouncing around the entirety of the building. The few nearby windows are stained glass with detailed designs and colors that coordinate with the building’s Greek-like design.
I search around for the closest exit to make my way out to the street, and away from these large, noisy crowds. After spotting one, I walk to the doors while trying to weave around the vast amount of people moving about in different directions. Once I reach the exit and step outside, I am immediately ambushed by the smells of cigarette smoke paired with the smoke from a nearby hot dog cart, which causes me to choke. I quickly wave my hand in the air to fan away the noxious smells as I search for a nearby street sign to get my bearings.
“Jeez. I didn’t think the city would be so lively at this time of the night.” I mutter as pedestrians push by me aggressively.
“Move the fuck outta my way, dick head.” Mumbles a person as they shove into me, almost knocking me to the ground.
“Ever heard of manners, asshole?!” I scream in retaliation as they walk away without hesitation.
I hate people so much.
“Oh! There it is!” I say as I quickly notice the street sign at the edge of the sidewalk corner.
I casually walk over to read the sign as a bus slowly pulls up and begins continually blaring its horn at the heavily congested traffic.
“Ah, jeez!” I scream as I cover my ears from the loud noise.
I quickly pull out my phone to check the GPS as I read the sign while wincing from the loud car horns.
“I’m currently on the North side of Grand Street and this cross street is Maiden Boulevard—so, I need to go East on Grand Street until I reach Pearl Street on the other end of the block, and then I go South on Pearl Street for three blocks. Then, the office building should be in the middle of the block, between Pearl Street and Maiden Boulevard. Got it.”
I put my phone away and hastily make my way towards my destination to escape the obnoxious car horns. I stare at the multitude of skyrise buildings that line every block as I walk through the busy streets. I take notice of the occasional coffee shop or small eatery that has been built into the base of the tall buildings which add a bit more atmosphere to the sprawling concrete jungle. I also notice that many of the pedestrians that dominate the sidewalks are either people in business attire rushing around, or obnoxious tourists that stop to take photos after every two steps. I reach the end of the block, cross the street southbound, walk for three more blocks, then take a sharp right, and search for the entrance to the Warren & Gardner building.
“Well, here it is.” I say as I gaze at the large entrance embellished with multiple small trees.
I casually walk through the large, glass, double doors, and stare in amazement at the lavishly decorated lobby.
“Wow. This place is so fancy! If only I could afford this kind of furniture for my own place. There’s one of those hi-tech fireplaces and everything in here! Maybe I should just move in to this lobby instead.”
I stroll over to the concierge desk in the middle of the lobby and notice the husky, short, bald man behind the desk with a bored, yet snobby expression on his face.
“Um, Hi. I’m here for an interview at Warren & Gardner, Inc.” I say softly.
The man peeps over the top of the desk and gives me a once over before subtly rolling his eyes.
“I.D.?” he asks grumpily.
“Huh? Oh! Of course.” I say nervously as I fumble to pull out my I.D. card.
I kindly hand my I.D. to him, but he aggressively snatches the card from my hand, causing me to jump back in surprise. He leans back in his chair, as he looks back and forth from my I.D. card to his computer monitor, while he types something on his keyboard. He then leans forward and rudely tosses my card back at me.
With a rude tone to his voice he says, “Yes, Mrs. Gardner informed me to let you up. Pass through the turnstile and take elevator C to the 12th floor.”
“Uh, thanks.” I anxiously respond.
What a rude guy. I’d hate to get on his bad side.
I proceed to the turnstile on right side of the concierge desk as the small monitor by the turnstile flashes green, and I pass through. I advance to the six elevator banks labeled “A” through “F” in chronological order and see elevator C just as the doors open. I quickly enter the elevator and once the doors slide closed, I begin to examine myself in the mirrors line each wall.
Before long, the elevator slows to a stop and a woman’s robotic voice softly says, “12th floor.” Followed by a soft ding as the doors slide open.
I walk out into a very narrow hallway with glass doors on both ends. To my left, the doors have displayed in big, cursive letters, “Warren & Gardner, Inc.”
“Well, this is it. No turning back now.” I mumble nervously.
I can feel my hands shaking and my throat become dry. I walk to the doors, while becoming hyper aware of my weird, wobbly steps, and open them. I approach the front desk occupied by a petite, brunette woman with glasses. She doesn’t seem to notice my presence and is typing away frantically at her computer.
“Um, excuse me.” I say politely.
The woman immediately startles and gasps. “Oh, my goodness! I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you there!”
After taking a breath, she quickly asks. “How can I help you?”
“My apologies. My name is Jace Goth. I—I’m here for an interview with Mrs. Ebony Gardner. I think I’m a bit early.”
“Oh! Yes, hello there Mr. Goth. Not to worry, I believe Mrs. Gardner has been expecting you. One moment please, I’ll let her know that you are here.”
She picks up the desk phone and dials a number before speaking into it.
“Hi, Mrs. Gardner? Yes. So sorry to bother you, but your interview, Mr. Jace Goth, has arrived.”
The woman hangs up the phone, then looks at me with a smile.
“She will be with you shortly. If you’d like, you can have a seat until she arrives. Would you like any water while you wait?”
“Oh, uh… no thanks. I’m good.” I reply before taking a seat.
I feel my heart begin to race as I fidget nervously in the chair. I watch frantically as each stranger passes by, guessing at which one could be Ebony.
Could that be her?
…No. Ebony had a very rough voice. That woman looks way too sweet.
Nah. She just doesn’t match up to the voice either.
Will I know when I see her?
I anxiously tap my fingers against the leather seat as I glance around the all-white office space with curiosity. I start to wonder how much of my shirt has now been doused in sweat and hope that I have applied enough deodorant and cologne to mask the potential smell.
Just breath. You’ve got this. There’s no reason to be so nervous. She’s just another person. She gets nervous too.
Within moments, I see a woman speed walking in my direction with a heavily fixed gazed upon me. I feel a quick shock within my chest as I quickly conclude that this woman must be her. She hastily approaches, then stares at me with a sharp look.
“Mr. Goth, I presume? Thank you for coming on such short notice. I apologize for the sudden call for an interview.” She says with a seemingly unapologetic tone.
“Oh, uh. It’s—it’s no biggie.” I quickly and anxiously stutter.
As I stand to greet her, I notice she is wearing a rather fashionable suit accompanied by expensive looking jewelry, something I could never in my life afford. Her dark eyes lock onto me as she carries a very stern expression on her face. She easily comes across as the kind of person you wouldn’t want to mess with; someone who would hunt you to the ends of the earth until she got her revenge.
“I am Ebony Gardner, the head of Warren & Gardner’s HR department. It’s a pleasure to meet finally you, Mr. Goth.” She says coldly.
“Oh, uh… yes. Likewise.” I respond anxiously.
She examines me as I shake her hand and immediately frowns.
Huh? Did I do something wrong? Should I not have shaken her hand?
…Or is it my outfit?
“Now if you would, follow me to my office where we will conduct the interview.” She says as she quickly turns and scurries away.
“Oh, uh. Sure.” I respond as I rush to catch up to her.
I almost break into a jog to not lose sight of her as she zigzags between cubicles.
Jeez. What’s her hurry?! Can she slow down just a little? What is this… a marathon?
Ebony comes to an immediate halt in front of a large, wooden door, causing me to almost ram into her.
“This is my office, come on in and have a seat.”
She opens the door to an almost bare office space that feels quite unwelcoming. The only decorations in the room are framed, generic photos (most likely included with the frames when purchased) that are assorted on the right wall above a dated copy machine. I waltz over to the only chair on the outside of the desk and take a seat, noticing how extremely uncomfortable and hard the cushion is. Ebony quickly shuts the door and approaches the opposite end of the desk to sit in the large chair. She then closes her eyes and pinches the bridge of her nose in irritation before opening a drawer, taking out some documents, and examining them.
“May I see your resumé, Mr. Goth?”
“Huh? Oh! Right.”
I quickly unzip my backpack to remove my resumé, then hand it to her. She grabs the document and quickly glances it over before frowning.
“Hm. Not a very impressive resumé. Let’s see. No college education, or any degrees outside a measly high school diploma. No awards, no interesting characteristics or background…” She sighs before laying the paper on the desk.
I can feel anger building in my chest from her insults. Who does this woman think she is?
“Luckily for you however, this job requires little to no prior experience and doesn’t require much to complete.” She says with a cold expression.
“As I said before, we are also rather—desperate—at the moment to have this position filled… and seeing as how you are the only applicant, I suppose the job is yours. I also spoke to Mr. Valentino prior to my callback. He had nothing but good things to say about you. I guess we will have to see if you can live up to that reputation, Mr. Goth.”
She stares harshly at me for a moment, making me feel uncomfortable. I feel as if I could melt away into the chair to avoid her eyes.
“Now, if you are willing to accept this job, I will of course need you to fill out the necessary paperwork—”
“Um, well—” I quickly intervene as I find a bit of courage within me.
“W-what is the position exactly? I mean, what exactly will I be doing?”
I was so desperate for just about any job that I kept forgetting to inquire on what exactly the job was.
Ebony laughs condescendingly. “The position, Mr. Goth, is an office mailroom clerk. You will be tasked with delivering letters and packages from our central mailroom to the appropriate ‘inbox’ on each employee’s desk. It is an ‘entry level’ position that just about anyone should be able to perform with ease.”
Wait a second… a mail delivery job?! What an absolute mess!
…Well, I suppose as they say, ‘beggars can’t be choosers.’ I guess this will just have to do for now.
“Now, if you are finished asking questions, I will need you to fill out this paperwork so we can move this right along.” Ebony says with irritation.
I let out a defeated groan and obediently fill out the form. Afterwards, Ebony takes the papers and files them away in her desk drawer.
“Now, there is another thing we need to get sorted before I can introduce you to your advisor and give you a brief overview of the job.” She says as she pulls another bundle of papers from her desk.
“We need to decide on your availability. Now, if there is one thing that we at Warren & Gardner pride ourselves on, it’s flexibility. This is a full-time role, so we do require you to at least be able to make it into work five days a week—not including any sick days, paid time off, etc. However, we allow for flexibility with each employee based on what times work best for their lives. As a company that manages the Prism District’s public transit system that runs a full twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week, we too like to keep the office open and running to match our unstoppable transit. So, as I said—unlike most office jobs within the city that ‘call it a day’ after five p.m., we stay open throughout the night and have many employees who find the late-night shifts to cater to their lifestyle.”
“So, Mr. Goth. What type of work schedule would work best for you?” She asks with stern look.
I stare at Ebony with confusion for a moment as I still am trying to wrap my brain around the fact that this is a mailroom clerk job.
“Um, I guess the later in the evening is better for me. I’m not exactly a ‘morning’ person.” I respond with an awkward smile.
Ebony maintains a cold, hard stare for a moment with her eyebrow raised quizzically.
“You know us young folk. Love to stay up late and sleep even later.” I say with a nervous chuckle.
Ebony examines me for a moment before speaking. “…Indeed. Well, as long as your – lifestyle – does not interfere with your work, then feel free. However, we will have no tomfoolery around here. We run a respectable establishment and we do not tolerate any kind of childish games. I am by no means anyone’s babysitter, do you understand?”
“Uh. Y-yes, ma’am.” I quickly reply.
“Now, with an evening schedule such as yours… if you like, we can have you starting your shifts around seven p.m. and then you can work until around three a.m. each evening. I can also start you working as early as Wednesday of this week. That way, we can get you in on a day that a supervisor can better show you around the office and give you the proper training. I also will be available in the late-night hours and can monitor your progress and decide if other actions are necessary to get you accustomed to the new job.”
“Does that work for you, Mr. Goth?” She says with a cold tone.
“Oh, um. Yes. Yes, it does.”
“Good. Now, let’s quickly go ahead and introduce you to your supervisor. She will be overlooking your work for the time being. If you have any questions or needs, please reach out to her, and if she is not available, then feel free to reach out to me as well.”
Ebony picks up the phone on her desk and says, “Mrs. Walker… Yes, please send Alexandra into my office please. Thank you.”
A few moments later, a loud banging is heard at the door before the heavy wooden door creaks open.
“Yeah, what do you want?” says a rough sounding voice as I hear someone enter the room.
I turn to the source of the gruff voice and see a woman carrying a very stern expression on her face. Upon quick examination, everything about her could be described as “average,” even her plain, gray outfit. The only thing that could be labeled as “interesting” about her is her bleach blonde hair.
“Alexandra, Mr. Goth here will be filling the role as our new mailroom clerk. We just finished up his paperwork and he is all set to start work on Wednesday. Please show Mr. Goth the ropes of the job and help him to feel right at home here in the office.” Ebony says with a harsh tone.
“As you wish, Ebony.” Alexandra says through gritted teeth.
I can feel a strong tension fill the air between Alexandra and Ebony. It almost makes me feel like a piece of meat in between two starving, vicious beasts. Alexandra quickly shifts her eyes in my direction and stares at me with a menacing look.
“I will—gladly—teach him everything he needs to know.”
“Good.” Responds Ebony with a commanding tone.
“Now, Mr. Goth, please go with Alexandra. She will give you a very quick overview of your work and the office before you head home for the night. I look forward to seeing you in the office starting Wednesday.”
“Thank you, Alexandra.” Ebony says coldly as she focuses on filing away her documents.
“Of course. Anything for you, my lady.” Alexandra quickly responds with a sour and sarcastic tone.
I glance back and forth between Ebony and Alexandra. I so desperately want to slink away from the awkward tension radiating from them both and hide in a corner. It almost feels like at any moment, Ebony and Alexandra could rip each other’s throats out.
What the heck is up with these two?!
“Follow me, Mr. Goth.” Alexandra says while keeping her eyes locked on Ebony.
I quickly stand from the chair and follow Alexandra out the door. Once we both exit the office, Alexandra angrily slams Ebony’s door, causing me to jump.
Jeez! I wouldn’t want to get on the bad side of either of these women. They are both so terrifying!
I hastily follow Alexandra as she stomps throughout the office until we reach a lone door at the far corner of the office space. Alexandra throws open the door, revealing the closet-like mailroom before turning to face me with her bloodshot eyes.
“This is where you will mostly be working. Letters and packages get stored away in this room. It is your job to organize all the mail according to who it will be delivered to.”
I slowly peak inside to see the mountains of packages and letters that fill the small room. I feel my throat tighten at the sight of all the large piles of deliveries. There must at least be hundreds of packages in there!
What the heck?! There are so many!!
Jeez. I’ve really got my work cut out for me.
Alexandra snaps her fingers to return my attention to her. “Hey! Pay attention, pest! You can read, can’t you? You are to deliver these letters and packages to the correct person’s desk that it belongs to after organizing and sorting the load of deliveries.”
Alexandra quickly slams the door, then gives me a harsh look. “It’s a job that doesn’t require much brain power, but from the looks of you… Well, let’s just say that I don’t see you lasting for very long.”
She flashes a sudden crooked smile.
Yikes. What is up with this woman? Is she the spawn of Satan or something? I can tell she has it out for me and I haven’t even started the job yet.
“Now, follow me, quickly! I will take you back to the front desk.” She says as she tramps off.
I quickly shuffle behind her as I to keep up with her rushed pace. She guides me back to the front desk and immediately turns to face me with a scornful expression.
“Here is where you will record your measly hours worked for each day. Speak to whoever is working at this desk when you arrive for your shift, and once you are completed. Do not forget to record your hours! I refuse to help any idiot who forgets to log their work times if they forget. Do not come crying to me if your paycheck ends up being incorrect because you were too stupid to record your hours every day. Although, I doubt you will last long enough to even see your first paycheck anyways.”
Alexandra then leans close my face with an irritated expression and her nostrils flared. I reactively edge away from her as her bitter breath poisons my lungs. She examines me for a moment before speaking with disgust in her voice.
“Hm. I feel like you will be the one who will really try my patience. Don’t even think about pushing your luck with me, you shrimp. I’ll be watching you, and just waiting for you to fuck up, and when you do? I’ll make your life a living hell! Just you wait and see.”
She then immediately turns away from me and storms off into the depths of the office. I stand there speechless for a moment, processing what the hell just happened and why I always get caught up in the worst situations.
What the fuck?! What is this bitch’s issue?!
What bug crawled up her ass anyway? Jeez.
What kind of hell hole job did Sebastian give me? Does he secretly hate me or something? Or is he just really naïve?
Damnit. Guess I have no choice at the moment until I can find a better job.
Who knows? Maybe—maybe it won’t be that bad in the end?
I really hope so.