1 – Only the boring stay dead


Chapter One

I’m an Internet stalker.
Each night after work, I sought his profile and read every ridiculous thing he posted. Unashamed in my invasion of his privacy, I’d ‘like’ everything. Not bad for a passive-aggressive way to announce he’d been in my thoughts. Not that he ever left them. From the moment I met him, his fractured spirit captured me.
I had this thing about people. I cultivated friendships with the broken. I did whatever it took not to have to inspect the person in the mirror. Their lives were so much easier to focus on.
“Daria, a few of us are getting a beer after work. Are you in?”
He’s so cute when he talks. The little dimple that sits just off the corner of his mouth made me want to poke him. He hadn’t shaved today, which made me want to run my fingers down the side of his face to feel the stubble against my skin. God, I’m an idiot.
“Earth to Daria.”
He smells clean. How the heck can he make soap smell so good? There’s something about a man who need not mask his natural scent with chemicals.
“Seriously, are you okay?”
With a sigh, I snapped out of my hormone induced fog. “I’m poverty stricken this week. I can’t afford to pay attention, obviously.”
He smiled again, and the dimple deepened.
“You drink cheap beer, and only two. I’m sure we can swing five bucks for you.”
“Then count me in. I just need to finish up a few things here. Who is all coming?”
“You, me, Alex, Tamera, Sheldon, and…” He paused, so I knew I wouldn’t like the next person whose name came out of his mouth. “Sharon.”
“Why on Earth would you invite the boss to go drinking? I’m out.”
Of all the people I wouldn’t mind getting intoxicated with, my anal-retentive boss just wasn’t one of them. I had nothing against the woman who signed my paychecks, but I liked the gaping red sea that separated our personal lives.
“You’re still in. She’s just a person, red blood cells and all. Besides, it’ll do Alex good to network with her. You know that they have passed him over for the last six promotions.”
Oh, man, he used the Alex card. Anytime I’ve ever fallen behind on my work, which is pretty much every day, Alex is the first to offer his help. I couldn’t possibly do something that would stand in the way of him getting what he rightfully deserves. They could promote me to Sharon’s job, and Alex can have mine. Then I’d be the boss, and everyone would avoid me like the plague. Think I’d have to pass on that.
“Fine, but I’m not singing.”
Kurtis laughed. “There’s beer and karaoke. I bet you ten bucks you don’t make it through your first bottle before you sign yourself up. We all know that deep inside that jaded little heart of yours lives a vivacious woman just waiting to be the center of attention.”
His laugh enveloped my ears and made me smile. God, why couldn’t I like the bad guy douche noggins like all the other women out there? Bad boys didn’t stick women in the friend zone. Pretty girls past thirty do not get laid in the friend zone. I’m just saying.
“Lucky for you, I don’t have ten bucks to bet you. Now go away and let me work before Sharon thinks I don’t have enough to do.” With a swivel of my chair, I turned back to my workstation and began the billing work up that I should have done two days ago. Since when did procrastination become a lifestyle choice? I remembered not too long ago, when I wore eagerness like a cape and would have finished everything early. Five shot down attempts to get ahead, my motivation amounted to that of my sex life. Non-existent. At this rate, Alex would be a manager before I would, and everyone knew the reason he wasn’t already was because he’d slept with the director’s daughter.
As soon as Kurtis walked away, I turned right back around to watch him. He might not have much of an ass, but the tall lanky gait he had when he walked made me think once again what he’d be like in bed. Every inch of him was just so long.
The groan escaped my throat before I could clamp my lips together. It’s bad enough she’s invading my after-work activities, now she’d want me to do something irritating, like work.
“Daria, why are there sticky notes all over the Jefferson, Brendon, and Skoal files?”
Perhaps, oh-wise-boss, if you read said sticky notes, the answer would magically appear before your very eyes. Though I didn’t say that to her, it felt good to think it. “There’s something wonky with those accounts. They need reviewed.”
“Aren’t you an accounts manager?”
“I’m more than happy to review them further, but I thought you’d want to know before I did so.”
“I don’t have time to do my job and yours.”
“I’ll pick them up in a few minutes then. Is there anything else?”
“Just keep me updated on what you uncover. All three are long-standing clients. If these findings are accurate, we need to tread lightly.”
Perhaps it wouldn’t be a great idea to say that all three were fraudulent companies that had no actual employees. Every single social security number I’d traced went back to an infant that died in the early 1900s. The whole thing was just odd, and apparently, I was the only one who’d ever noticed. This has corporate cover up right on up to our Strategies Unlimited eyebrows. I wanted to pass it off to Sharon, so I didn’t have to have any part of the fallout. The companies had enough ties to military contracts and arsenals that they could lay siege to the entire population of humans. In my entire experience as an account’s specialist, I’d never seen one company win so many contracts as these three did. Combined with they were all owned by the same person and it sent my conspiracy theory mind into overdrive.
“Will do.”
“I need your billing on my desk in one hour, or your entire team will not get paid next Friday.”
With that she hung up. See, that is what I meant. On one hand, she’s willing to let me tackle the bigger assignments without micromanaging me to death, and then she squashes my inner rebellion with threats of my team not getting paid. Like that will ever happen. My twelve account specialists would skin me alive and boil my remains to feed to the seagulls that roam up and down this coast.
It irritated her when I answered with letters. Once I sent her a text message that said Running L8. She brought me into her office to discuss professionalism. Every subsequent text message started with HRU? (How are you?). What can I say, in the core of my being, I’m a spoiled, petulant pre-teen just waiting to piss off my next authority figure?
Her sigh carried through the speaker of the desk phone as she ended the communication. Point for me. Well, until it came time for them to deny me a promotion once again. Then I’m sure I’ll regret all this immature nonsense.
I finished the billing in about fifteen minutes. The sad part of my life was that I’m ridiculously good at my job. I work for a firm that acted as a check and balance system for conglomerate corporations. They hired us to review their company practices in things such as ethics, billing, advertising, and community involvement. We gave them a rating that they then used to promote themselves in developing areas or at career building campaigns.
I started as a temp about four years ago. Fresh-faced and college educated, I’d been ready to take on the world. One thousand, eight hundred, and sixty-four accounts later, I hated everything corporate related. I have yet to see one company that wanted to be a strong presence in the community or pay their workers what they were worth. They just wanted a nice little A on their report card. We’re basically the Health Department giving out ratings based on an archaic system that had no real basis in this century. Not to mention, I had a sneaking suspicion; the entire setup was a fraud to cover companies like Jefferson, Brenden and Skoal. That or I just watched too much crime television. These three were the dirtiest companies I’d ever seen, all owned by a woman named Winterbourne the world knew absolutely nothing about. This woman controlled the weapons’ contracts for the US military, and a large chunk of foreign investments that dealt with technological warfare.
Sharon’s office stood about twelve feet from my humble desk. I switched out the billing folder for the folders of the three companies I’d spend the weekend investigating. One of the great perks of my job was that I only had to show up on Fridays. I spent most of my time in the field where I visited the companies. In the beginning, I signed on as an intern to get a feel for what it would be like to work there. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to quit my job and go work for some of these places that tried so hard to impress me. Strategies Unlimited made me sign a disclosure stating I wouldn’t leave their employment for a company they’d investigated.
They sucked like that.
I finished the last bit of paperwork and cleared off my desk for the week. Clutter disturbed me in ways I couldn’t explain, and I’d be spastic next week if I came back to things out of place.
Just as I walked by Sharon poked her head out of her office door. “Good night, Daria. It’s been an adventure working with you.”
“Uh, bye.”
What the heck kind of statement was that. She made it sound as though our work relationship was ending. Oh, thank God. If I’m getting fired, then I don’t have to investigate why three of our biggest clients all carry the identification of dead people.

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