A Day at the Office
Pam walked into Erica’s office, letting in a burst of laughter from the birthday party happening elsewhere in the financial firm. It was the only way laughs ever trickled into Erica’s office; as a youngish woman in the boys’ world of finance, she put on a stern air. The female manager dressed in a way that was serious but still graceful, and today was no exception. White power suit with silk orange scarf, skirt ending at the knees, showing just enough leg to make the guys look. She secretly amused herself by crossing her legs in the middle of a meeting and watching the fat, balding men she typically dealt with take a quick glance, her own private way of putting them off-guard. She loved to hold court in her office, sit on the love seat opposite the couch where a pair of 50-year-old family men had parked their kiesters, then swing one leg over the other and clasp left calve to right shin, a show she finished with a slight Mona Lisa smile. Anytime she wanted to throw them off, she would do the show again. Everyone had to use the assets God had given them.
But at the moment, she had a quarterly report to finish and was all business. She had hung her blazer over the back of her three-wheeled chair, leaving on a white silk blouse that showed off her fair-skinned arms. Her black bangs cut across her forehead like a crow’s wing, the rest of her hair pulled into a brass-colored barrette.
Her corner office was an intimidating chamber of glass floor-to-ceiling windows, bound books and leather furniture that inhaled its occupants. Original Picassos adorned the walls – her secretary Pam knew this because Erica insisted on lecturing her subordinates about the pricey decorations. Hence the assistant also knew about the 300-dollar Waterman pens, the $10,000 hand-knotted Persian rug, the set of golf clubs in the corner that had once been used by JFK. Erica’s workplace was bigger than the average studio apartment; it took Pam more than a few seconds to work her heels across the Persian rug sprawled out in the yards between the stout oak office door and the mahogany desk. Pam’s attire was meant to show off her 24-year-old physique, a tight white blouse hanging low, an equally tight black skirt ending an unprofessional three inches above her knees, black nylons and tall, strappy heels. Her walk flattered her further, hips moving her ass cheeks like a pair of sugar bags, long dark curls bouncing. In one hand she held a triangle of creamy chocolate cake stabbed with a plastic fork that was plopped atop a paper plate.
“What is it Pam?” Erica asked without looking up.
“You coming to the party? It’s my birthday, you know,” Pam chirped.
“Don’t have time,” Erica shot back.
“How about a piece of cake?” Pam offered, smile not breaking as she held up the sugary wedge with one hand.
“Oh please? I made it myself, my feelings would be hurt.”
“Thanks, Pam, but I’m watching my figure.”
“Oh, you don’t need to do that. You look great! I hope I look like you in ten years.”
Erica looked up from her computer, eyebrows spiking . Her young secretary thought she was only 34. Truth was Erica was pushing forty, but her 5’7 120 pound frame was as trim as her college years.
A small smile danced on her red lips as she said, “that will be all for now, Pam.”
“Here,” Pam dared take another step across the Persian and only just set the piece of cake on the desk. “I’ll just leave this here. Promise you’ll at least try a bite!”
“Hold on,” she said as Pam was turning to leave. “Have you seen Walter? Is he in?”
“Haven’t seen him,” Pam answered.
“Tell Walter I would like to speak to him when he gets here. That will be all. Dismissed.”
Today wouldn’t just be remembered for Pam’s birthday party, Erica decided. Walter had been late for the last time. She sighed as her secretary left her alone in her office. She hated firing people, but that was why she got the corner office. Walter had been late at least three times since he’d started here, and when he was here he was hardly productive. His mind was always elsewhere; whenever she spied him at his desk he was always looking out the window, up at the clouds.
Erica continued to prepare the quarterly report she’d been working on, moving figures back and forth, hoping to hell it would impress the new regional supervisor. She was so absorbed that at first she didn’t notice. There was nothing to notice, but that was precisely the problem. There was nothing at all. The office was dead calm.
Erica looked up from her computer monitor with a start. What happened to the laughing and flirting that had been emanating throughout the office all morning? Why wasn’t she hearing doors opening, men on phones, making deals with clients or one another? It was as if someone had turned off the entire office. The only noise at all was the steady seashell drone of central air conditioning. What the hell just happened?
She got up to investigate, walking as fast as her heels and pencil skirt allowed, hands bunched at the fingertips. Before she made it out of the office the door opened. There stood her secretary Pam, with gun drawn. Behind her stood a taller girl about the same age, another office drone she had often seen lunching with Pam.
“I’m sorry Erica,” Pam smiled smugly, showing no teeth, “But you really should have eaten that cake. Now we have to tie you up.”
* * *
Walter dashed up the stairs, two, sometimes three at a time, forgoing the elevator. With any luck, he could make it to his desk before Erica noticed. He had been late three times already, had been warned what would happen if he was late again. The tee shirt below his Oxford shirt was drenched with sweat, his brown bangs disheveled as if someone had tousled his hair in a fatherly gesture. His tie now sagged in an untightened noose around his neck.
He stopped on the landing outside the entrance to the firm, crashed the crash bar of the metal door, bolted into the firm and was greeted by…silence. His own heavy breathing and gasping was the only sound. He gently walked through a once bustling office that had been turned into a tomb. Workers lay about everywhere, slumped in chairs with heads on desks, a few lying on the floor with manila folders and papers strewn about. A collection of suited men and skirted women lay unconscious in the plastic chairs of the office break room, gathered around the laminated table, as if they had taken a suicide pact, pieces of cake and dabbles of frosting encrusted on paper plates. A half-eaten rectangle of sheet cake sat in the middle of the table.
Out of odd habit, Wally went to his desk and set down his briefcase. This is really happening, Wally thought, this isn’t one of my fantastic day-dreams that are always costing me my job. Mack, the broker who worked one desk over from him, was out cold, head on top of an outstretched forearm sprawled across his desktop, his other arm hanging limply at his side. Wally nudged him a couple of times with a pencil and got no response, but he could hear breathing. Mack wasn’t dead, just unconscious. A wedge of cake with a few bites taken out sat crumbling on a napkin on the corner of his desk. The cake, so that was the culprit. Someone put something in that cake…
A sound pierced the still air, a high-pitched girlish squeal, followed by muffled moans. Then came the commanding tone of another young girl; “Oh shutup! You know, if you’d just eaten the cake like a good little girl, we wouldn’t have to do this. Now quit squirming!”
Then another female voice, “I say we just kill this bitch!”
“Now Crystal, that’s not necessary. I’m almost done-“
“Idiot, Cora, don’t use our real names. Oh dang it, now she knows both of us!”
Wally grabbed a tall pair of powerful black scissors and made his way to where the sounds were coming from, his supervisor’s office. Erica was in trouble.
He peeked his head around the doorway to the surreal sight of his boss bound and gagged, two office girls lording over her. They had tied Erica to her own wheeled-chair, the sleek piece of equipment used to imprison her. Her feet and legs were wrapped with plastic cord from her own phone, the cord then anchored to the stem of the chair. Her feet could only kick forward a smidgen and uselessly, she wouldn’t be able to dig in her heels and propel herself, making a mockery of a chair designed to be mobile. More cord crisscrossed her blouse just below the breasts, strapping her to the black chair back. Her arms were wrapped around the chair’s back, a hovering oval of plastic connected to the seat with a shiny silver stem. He could just see her wrists dangling and bound with white computer cord, then anchored to the stem that ran between the oval chair’s back and the seat. More cords tied her to the seat. Her own scarf had been crammed into her mouth and held in place with grey tape. For good measure, the girls had wrapped the tape around her mouth, neck and jaws dozens of times.
Wally recognized the two girls. The one, Pam, had been hired on as Erica’s personal assistant a few weeks ago, Erica burned through secretaries on a monthly basis. The taller dark-haired girl was Susan and had started in accounting just a week ago. Except they were calling each other by different names. “Well, Crystal, that takes care of her,” the shorter one said to her accomplice, then focused on her victim, “Don’t worry, sweetie. Everyone else will wake up in a few hours, and you’ll be as free as a bird.” Erica sighed deeply into her gag, clearly not relishing spending the entire day tied up, only to be rescued after being seen in a helpless heap by the people she supervised. Or maybe she would be freed by a stunned pair of window washers. In any case, the sight of her trussed up would be remembered for the rest of her career.
“Meanwhile, we’ll be on our way to points south,” the taller one boasted, “Once we help ourselves to your fine Persian carpet, Kennedy’s clubs, and your Picassos. I also think I’ll go out into the office and go shopping for Rolexes.” Erica looked up at her captor, dully. Crystal added, “That is, after we clean out the safe.”
“MMMPH!” Erica protested, eyes wide and shaking her head, her dark bangs scattering everywhere. One detail of her office she had never told “Pam” and the rest of the crew was where the safe was; that tidbit was entrusted to her alone. But somehow these two undercover thieves had put that together. Walter watched as the pair exited stage left, out of his field of vision to somewhere else in Erica’s office.
“Here’s the safe!” he heard one of the young girls shout, “Right behind the Picasso she’s always bragging about.”
Walter dared peek a bit more from behind the opened office door. For the first time, his boss saw him. Her eyes alight, she motioned with her head to the solid, black, ugly object that lay at her feet. A gun. Walter knew what to do next.
In a few quick sprints he dashed across the Persian rug, scooped the handgun with one hand. “Hands up, ladies!”
Both girls spun, Walter’s voice sending a bolt of shock through the pair. “Cora, you idiot!” the taller one shouted to her partner, “How many times do I have to tell you not to leave the gun lying around!”
“Shutup!” Walter shouted. His gagged boss could only look on helplessly as the scene played out. “Hands up, both of you!”
“Yea right,” Crystal said. Both girls stared back at him with arms folded. “Gimmie a break Walter. You’re not really gonna shoot.” She took a step towards him. Just then, a sonic boom echoed throughout the office while a hole appeared in one of the windows, spider-webbing the shatterproof glass. Erica’ taped mouth let out of girly squeal while she did a quick bounce in her seat, bound though she was. Crystal and Cora’s arms instantly shut up, the gunshot having erased all smugness and bravado.
“Good,” Walter asserted, secretly terrified. He gripped the gun even harder with two hands to keep them from shaking. The discharge had been an accident, but it worked. “Now, you,” he pointed the barrel at the taller girl, who he correctly assumed to be the leader, “Face down on the floor, hands behind your back. Now!”
“You’ll pay for this, you freak,” Crystal protested as she got down on her knees, her miniskirt hiking up to her thighs. She splayed out her hands in front of her and lay on the floor, looking up at him with one cheek touching the carpet. “You won’t get away with this.”
“Shutup! Now, you!” He tossed the roll of tape Cora had left on Erica’s desk. She caught it. “Tape up your friend, hands and feet. And do it good!” Cora obliged. She crossed her cousin’s wrists and wrapped them in layers of silver tape, Crystal protesting over the sound of the adhesive screeching off the cardboard roll, “Not so tight!” with Walter countering, “Tighter! Tighter bitch!” Once Crystal’s hands were rendered useless, he ordered Cora do the same to her partner’s feet.
“Sorry, Crystal,” Cora said, then crossed the backs of her cousin’s ankles, one over the other, and taped them as well. The silver bands stood out in stark contrast to the tan nylons Crystal had chosen for the day.
“Good!” Walter said to Cora, “Now it’s your turn. Get on the floor and tape your own ankles together.” The young burglar meekly obeyed, sitting on the floor with her knees level to her chin, feet together as if she were getting ready to tie her shoes. Erica looked on, nodding her approval.
“Cross your ankles,” Walter ordered, “And tape them together. Tight!” She looked up at him with puppy dog eyes, then slowly grabbed the roll of tape. After she’d made a dozen passes around her black sheer nylons, Walter told her to stop. Her feet thoroughly bound, she sat leaned back, propping herself up with her arms.
“Now, roll over. Face down.”
“Asshole,” she griped, as she slowly turned over, “My cousin and me are gonna kill you!”
“Shutup, hands behind you back!”
Once both girls were bound hand and foot, Walter went to his boss. She looked up at him, nodding and beaming, eyes wide while she grinned best as she could through the cloth and tape over her mouth. She hummed an odd sing-song, which Walter guessed was her laughing through the gag, “hm…hm! Hymm hmm hum!”
“Hey Walter,” Crystal called out. She had rolled to one side so she could look at him from her forced spot on the floor. “Proposition. How much money does she pay you?”
“Shutup,” Walter wouldn’t even look at her. Instead, he approached his boss like a curious problem as he tried to figure out how best to remove the tape and cords. He picked and pulled at the knots (“hmmm…mmm!” was his boss’ response), but the plastic coating had welded and the knots wouldn’t give. He picked up the big pair of scissors he’d brought. Crystal droned on. “There’s probably over half a million of cash and bearer bonds In that safe. Plus, I’ve noticed lots of expensive watches and diamond rings on your co-workers. Leave that bitch where she is, let us go, we split everything down the middle.”
“Shutup!” He tenderly traced his fingers over the tape on Erica’s lips, his supervisor looking at him expectantly, while he tried to find where the silver strips of tape began.
“Walter,” Cora beckoned suggestively, “You’ll be a lot hap-ee-er if you unties us instead. I never said this to you before, but I always thought you were pretty cute.”
“C’mon Walter,” Crystal called to him. “Untie us and you not only get a happy tryst, but you’ll never have to work again!”
Erica rolled her eyes. Walter stepped back from her and said, “Is it okay if I gag them first?” Erica nodded eagerly.
“No, you idiot!” was Crystal’s last desperate attempt before he plastered her lips.
“Walter…” Cora whispered to him, eyebrows bouncing, just before he knelt beside her and slapped tape over her mouth. Both girls gagged now, he returned to the task at hand. Their moans and groans provided the back ground noise as Walter unraveled the long silver strip around Erica’s mouth. When he at last pulled the last length away she spat out her own scarf they’d stuffed between her teeth.
“Hew, thank God Walter,” she gasped. “Untie me, quick! Cut me loose!”
Walter first undid her hands, pumping the scissors a few times until they finally bit through the plastic coating and copper wires. He next cut the cords around her chest, then got to work freeing her legs. “It’s a good thing you were late, Walter.” Erica massaged her own wrists as he cut the bonds around her ankles. “Else they would’ve made out like the bandits they are!” She shot both girls a look. Crystal and Cora could only glare back.
Once he had cut her free, she offered a hand, smiling. He took it and helped Erica to her feet, like a gentleman helping a princess out of a limo.
“What now?” He tucked the gun into his waistband.
“Best find a phone. They cut up the cords on mine.”
“Right!” Walter un-holstered the pistol from his waist. “I’ll stand guard while you call the police!”
“Oh no, no,” Erica put her hands around both of Walter’s biceps. “I am not going out into the office alone, not without my protector. Come, we’ll go together. Those two aren’t going anywhere,” she smirked, looking down at the two ladies, bound hand and foot, mouths taped. They shook their heads, harrumphing furiously through their gags and pounding their bound feet in protest. “Let’s go, Walter,” Erica led him by the hand out onto the office floor. “I think there’s a phone in the conference room,” Erica suggested.
“Why don’t we just use the phone on Ed’s desk?” Walter asked, pointing to the nearby desk of a co-worker.
“I think the conference room would be best,” she asserted, smiling all of her teeth while her eyebrows show upwards.
Once in the conference room she shut the door behind her, locked it, leaned back against the door with her hands behind. “Whad’ya say Walter? Just this once.”
* * *
Jessica tapped one of her pumps as she waited patiently for the elevator to descend. The 26-year-old was going to spend her lunch break interviewing for a better job as a paralegal at a different firm. Hence she had on the paralegal outfit of black skirt, sheer black nylons and pumps, matching black blazer and silk blouse, her pink silk scarf the only touch of color.
She descended a few more floors before the elevator stopped to let on more passengers. The silver doors opened onto the most bizarre sight she had ever seen. Standing in front of her were two girls her own age, tied up, gagged, and hopping in front of her, a quick “mmph mmph!” with each bounce. The dark-haired beauties both obviously worked for the firm that was on that floor, as they were dressed in the attire of young office drones; silk blouses and skirts, a tad short for the workplace but not enough to get reported to H.R. They had kicked free whatever footwear they’d put on and now hopped about in nylons.
“What on Earth!” The blonde paralegal just stood quivering, paralyzed as the show hopped and groaned in front of her.
“HMM-MMM!” The taller one moaned impatiently, lurching her head forward, then twisting so the blond could see her taped wrists, signaling she needed help.
“Oh, oh right!” Jessica stepped out of the elevator and worked to free the girls of the duct tape.
* * *
Erica and Wally cautiously stepped out of the conference room, tip-toeing on shoeless feet, Wally in his dark socks, she in her hose, both tucking in shirts and straightening out clothes as they left. The office was still sound asleep, but one always walks with trepidation after wrapping up a sin. The only sound was the one they expected, that of someone bound, gagged, and trying to wriggle free.
“Wally, something’s not right,” Erica whispered. “The sound is coming from the supply closet. We left them in our office.”
Wally nodded, pulled out the gun he’d stolen from Cora. Both nimbly tip-toed to the supply closet, the rustling and mmmphs growing louder with each silent step. They stood on opposite sides of the door, Wally ready with his gun raised. He nodded to Erica, who threw the door wide open. Wally jumped into the doorway. “Freeze!”
He found a tied up young woman at his feet, a stranger. Her arms were tied behind her with white cotton rope that shone in contrast to her black blazer, ditto the glowing bright rope around her black nylons. A pink scarf had been pulled between her lips and tied off behind her short, bell-shaped blonde hair. She looked up at him, eyes moist.
“I...I…I was on the elevator,” she shakenly explained, after they had untied her. “It stopped and I saw these two girls bound and gagged. I freed them, and then they tied me up! They overpowered me and dragged me in here, tied me up with rope that was in the closet already.”
“You poor thing,” Erica replied. “They tied me up too. That’s all the moaning and groaning you heard from the conference room.” She looked over Jessica to Walter, who nodded. “Good thing Walter came by when he did.”
* * *
“Well, we searched the building, but they’re both long gone,” the building chief of security said. “Probably half way to Mexico by now. How much did you say they took?”
“They cleaned out the safe of over half a million worth of cash and bonds.” Erica said. “But the important thing is, I’m safe, thanks to Walter.” She looked over to her young subordinate. “I owe you one, kiddo.”
“It was nothing,” Walter said, smiling back at her.
Once they were out of the security room, Walter asked her, “So after they tied up that girl from the 24th floor, they still managed to clean out the safe?
“Something like that,” Erica winked.