Dead End Job: A Louisa Hallstrom Novel

By: Ingrid Reinke


First and foremost I’d like to thank my husband Karl, who acted like a good bra by providing me solid and unwavering support throughout this process. Thank you for reading endless, rambling and badly written drafts, laughing at all of my jokes, and giving me the encouragement that I needed. Thank you for being my best friend. I love you.

Thank you to my parents who taught me to read and fostered my passion for good stories & thank you to my wonderful, funny and slightly off-kilter group of friends who insisted that I had a talent for writing. Without you this would never have happened, and I am truly thankful.

I’d also like to thank Lisa Wilcox for helping me get on my feet with some solid editing and advice early on, and the team at All Ivy Writing Services for taking an editorial machete to my first draft and helping me shape this book into what it is today. Final thanks to the team at Bullseye Creative for helping my creation come to life by designing the cover art.


I know I’m lying on the ground, but I can’t remember if my eyes are open or closed. If they are open, I only see darkness. If they are closed, I am afraid to open them. My vision is confused, but I know that I feel pain, so much pain. Even though I feel the waves of agony coming from every part of my body, somewhere in my brain, I realize that the true source must be my left shoulder. I hear my heart pounding. I smell the metallic, sweet scent of blood, and I can feel it flowing onto my neck, bubbling up with the beat of my heart. It drips down my chest, into my belly button and over my arm, slowly pooling onto the carpet. My long blond hair, clumped under my neck, feels wet and heavy. The back of my head pounds in an agonizing, steady rhythm, echoing the beating of my heart.

I have to move. I need to be rolling over, standing and running. I need to run, or I must punch, scratch, claw and kick. I need to fight for my life; I will surely die if I lay here a moment longer. There is no other option. Adrenaline shoots through me like a spark and tells my brain: push, push, push. Get up, Louisa, get up NOW.

My legs are slow to react. After long seconds I feel my feet twitching. My right arm finds its way onto the carpet and begins to push my body away from the floor. My right leg bends, lifting my knee up, bracing for my body’s weight. Finally.

Seeing nothing, I now know that my eyes are closed. I strain to open them and when I succeed I can only see my imminent death, staring down at me in the shape of a gun barrel. I brace myself for what I know is coming.

Suddenly the world is ripped away from me. I hear an ear splitting explosion and I know that my plans have been ruined. Shards of glass rain down on my face and body. Surely I will not live to see how this will end.

Chapter 1: Memorandum: Your Life Sucks

“Lulu, turn around. Turn around right now. She is COMPLETELY losing her shit!” said the frantic instant message from my best gay, Martin.

I slowly stood up and turned around to peer over the cubes to the other side of the office. Sure enough, my boss Elaine was in the midst of a full-blown meltdown. Her smeared glasses were crooked on her face, somehow caught on one side in her frizzy reddish-blond hair. The usual dusting of dandruff on her shoulders seemed to thicken with every frantic step as she paced in an erratic circle, pounding her fists on some invisible surface and screaming “Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! SHIIIIIIIIT!!!” I whipped back around and sat down in my desk as quickly and quietly as I could.

“I wonder what it is this time,” popped up another IM from Martin, who was currently laugh-coughing and furiously typing messages in the cube across from me while pretending to do an expense report. “She probably lost her keys in her purse again.”

I leaned toward my desk, inching my head as close as humanly possible to my keyboard while still maintaining the ability to type. Hiding. Click clack click, I typed away. I had three IM conversations going: the first with my sister in Australia, who was six days late and not really wanting to have another baby right at the moment; the second with my friend Amanda, who worked across town at Children’s Hospital on an epilepsy study and actually liked her job; and finally, the ongoing daily conversation with Martin, where we hypothesized about our coworkers' penis sizes, Lady Gaga’s new album, and made snarky comments to each other about the unwitting "losers" sitting next to us.

I waited for ten seconds or so while the screaming went on. Unfortunately for my fellow co-workers and me, Elaine’s outbursts were frequent and legendary, and she always did her best to involve as many people as possible.

Seconds after I had peeked over in Elaine’s direction, I made an educated guess that her initial panic attack had passed. She had now moved on to the second phase of her episode: scanning the office for a victim. Flinching, I put my head down to my desk, doing everything I could to avoid eye contact. Please, please, please, don’t pick me. Please, please, please, don’t pick me. I repeated the mantra over and over in my head. Just thinking about dealing with Elaine was giving me sudden and vicious heartburn.