Dead End Job: A Louisa Hallstrom Novel(64)

By: Ingrid Reinke

As he chopped away at the duct tape sloppily, he hit skin more than a few times. I was trying to hold still, but couldn’t help but cringe as I felt the drops of blood move down my wrists and slowly drip onto the floor. The process took him several minutes as he fluctuated between cussing to himself and cheering himself on.

“Fuck!” Chop, chop.

“Oh yes, girl!” Chop, chop, chop.

“Woo hoo…freaking bitch!” (It was hard to tell if that statement was out of frustration or victory).

The entire process probably took less than a couple of minutes, but the pain made it seem like an eternity. When Martin had finally ripped off the last shred of tape he rolled onto his back. Even though the office was cool, he was sweating profusely from his forehead, and I could see large pools of armpit sweat soaking through his white T-shirt and staining the cheap, blue button-up shirt he was wearing over it. Avoiding eye contact, I gingerly put my hands in my lap. My shoulders ached from the strain of sitting in such an awkward position, and the fingers tingled. I didn’t have much time to worry myself, though, because in a few seconds Martin had caught his breath enough to stand and pull me to my feet. He turned me around so I was facing the back of the office and proceeded to unceremoniously shove me as hard as he could. I had no choice but to practically leap to the back side of the desk to avoid falling flat on my face.

“OK dokie, now we have to get those reports,” he said, pushing me into Elaine’s chair. He reached across my right shoulder and clicked a finger almost elegantly on Elaine’s mouse, bringing her monitor out of sleep mode. The screen flashed blue and the log-in box appeared, pre-populated with Elaine’s username. He began patting my head from behind gently, but excitedly, mussing my hair. “OK, Girl!” he cheered. “Put in Elaine’s system password and we’ll print those babies out so I can get my cash!”

I paused for a second and wracked my brain. I knew Elaine’s stupid password, which was always the word “Northwest,” with a capitol ‘N.’ The only thing that changed was the number after it, which ranged from one to ten and was updated every three months. After she cycled through, she started over, so despite harsh warnings about security from our IT department, it had been the same few passwords for the last however many years she had been with Merit.

By this point I had no doubt that Martin was involved in Sarah and Maya’s murders. I wondered if it had been an accident, or if after he had gotten me to put in Elaine’s password his plan was simply to kill me too. Seeing how he was hovering closely above me, and knowing what he was capable of, I didn’t think that I really had a choice.

I started typing Elaine’s password, which I was pretty sure was “Northwest5” and began pondering options to make my escape. The printer Elaine used was directly outside of her office door, a clear shot to the chair I was in, so even if Martin went and grabbed the reports while they were coming out, I’d still have walk right past him somehow to get out the back door into the reception area. I looked around the room for my purse, which was nowhere to be found, and ruled out sending a quiet text on my cell phone while Martin was distracted. The only viable option that I could see at the moment was somehow using Elaine’s desk phone to call 911. That wouldn’t work, though; Martin might have been drunk, but he was not stupid. I knew that he would immediately see that the phone was off the cradle. Plus, he outweighed me by at least 100 pounds. I had no chance in a physical struggle.

By the time I clicked the “Go” button, I was in full panic mode. I held my breath as the computer accepted the password and the home screen booted.

“Yup! Yup, yuppie yup, yup!” Martin cooed at my success. “You’re the one, Lulu! I knew you could do it.” As he sat down in the chair across from me I decided the best option that I had for survival was to play along. “OK, OK!” He clapped his hands together, excited, moving his sizable ass up and down in the seat. “Print that shiz!”

I looked back to the monitor and found the reports file as quickly as I could, then I hit print. I heard the dull humming noise as the printer warmed up directly behind Martin, and then the click as it engaged and the warm sheets of paper began to pop out onto the cradle.

“I knew you could do it, Lulu! You sassy little biotch!” He tilted his head to the side, smiling. His eyes glossed up and for a moment I thought he was going to cry with joy. Seeing Martin’s sudden change of mood made me feel a little bit more optimistic about my prospects of surviving so I decided to try to play along, hoping he would forget about any plans he might have had to off me, take what he needed, let me go my way and leave. I pretended like I was trying to say something important, and I even tried to smile back, but the tape across my mouth was presenting a problem. I made some gurgling noises and pointed to my mouth, as if asking his permission to remove the tape.