Tooth and Claw

A model secretary

Rosemary stared down at the box on her desk. There was hardly anything in personal it – she’d already moved most of her things. It hurt too much too keep them here after Christmas, after the last participants on the trial had stopped responding to the medication and her little boy had died.

She had known this was likely coming, ever since he’d first been diagnosed, but the trial had given her hope. She’d had to make herself believe, because how could she show up to the hospital every day, look her little boy in the eye and lie about his chances of getting better? But the participants had started to fail in November, and the first of them had succumbed in December a few weeks later. She’d had one last Christmas with Arthur, and then he was gone. He’d been seven.

Now she was alone.

The last two months had been… numb. She’d still come back to work, taking only a week off for the funeral. What else was she going to do? She had no other family. Her days had consisted of working, then going to the hospital to be with her son, then coming back to work the next day. She had no hobbies, no social life, nothing else that had driven her. She had worked here because they had helped her boy, because she’d been willing to look away on so many terrible things and put up with so much for the chance that maybe they could save him. Now she was cast adrift, purposeless. Now she had no reason to stay.

They had reassigned her, after Mr Cuorene had… ‘left’. She had come in after the New Year and been told that she was covering Mr Crane’s PA – he went through them like water, so she hadn’t thought much of it at the time. She’d just kept on looking after Mr Cuorene’s paperwork for when he came back, and doing the best she could with Mr Crane’s jobs as well. She didn’t like working for Mr Crane. He had bad vibes about him, much more openly so than many of the others in this department. Fortunately she was too old and ‘boring’ for him to flirt with her, mostly leaving her to work on autopilot.

But then a month had passed, and she hadn’t had any information about when she’d be going back to her real job. It had been unusual enough that she’d come out of her grief-stricken autopilot to try and find out what was going on. They’d told her she was being permanently reassigned, that Mr Cuorene wouldn’t be needing a PA anymore and she was far too valuable a company asset to be demoted. That had got her attention. Curiosity was a dangerous trait to have at Pentex. But then, what did she have to lose now?

So she’d made some enquiries, a little casual conversation with the other PAs. She didn’t know the exact details, but according to the rumours, he had murdered Ms Luther and then been kept in ‘solitary confinement’ for punishment. From her own experience in the kind of access the PAs up here had, it was probably more than a rumour. A part of her thought he couldn’t possibly be that stupid. Another part of her could completely believe it. Nobody had seen him since New Year’s, and then his office had been cleared out and his paperwork carted away. It was possible he was dead. It was possible he was being ‘reconditioned’ somewhere. Either way, she knew how unlikely it was that she’d ever see him again.

Rosemary liked Mr Cuorene. He was a terrible boss. He hardly ever seemed to turn up to work on time, he was capricious and fickle and childish. He was a monster, and she was well aware of the terrible, terrible things he had done. He terrified her at times, and she knew he could have killed her whenever he wanted, probably without losing much sleep. But he had been kind to her, when he didn’t have to be. He had asked after Arthur, remembered her birthday, flirted with her even though she was well aware he didn’t mean to follow through with it. He’d had a talent for making her feel special, to sometimes forget that he was a monster. Admittedly it was a low bar. But when you worked for Pentex, anything like that was unusual enough to take note of.

So she’d gone through his papers – because she always kept several copies of everything, due to his tendencies to throw things away without reading them, so even though they had cleared out his office she still had some things. She’d looked at the projects that had been coming up, before his… resignation. She’d joined a few dots, because she’d always been too good at that for her own liking; about the ongoing project with the youngest Garou pack, the photo he’d kept in his desk that was missing from the file, and the orders in the amber file that had appeared among his paperwork shortly before she had been reassigned, that she had held onto just in case. And then she’d made a decision, and some of the paperwork had started going home with her.

She’d had a few weeks. Even amid her haze of grief, she’d known there was a chance to do something good before she finished. They didn’t seem very suspicious, but she couldn’t trust that it wasn’t a ruse and it was only a matter of time before she was confronted. It wouldn’t be a surprise that they were simply biding their time, building a case against her. Every day leaving had been spent wondering if today would be the day they would do a thorough search, if today she would be caught and bundled into a van, never to be seen again.

Still, she’d got a fair amount of Mr Cuorene’s papers out, and some of Mr Crane’s too. It had taken a little while for her to decide what to do with them. At the very least, she thought that Richard’s daughter might want to know about Mr Cuorene and the project – if Rosemary’s hunch was correct, she’d definitely want to know. It felt like a favour repaid, to a man who had been very kind to a sick little boy.

She was going to hand in her resignation tomorrow. She knew the consequences of it, the likely outcome in the aftermath. They might give her a few days, up to a week if she was really as unimportant as she had often felt. More likely she’d never make it out of the building.

Rosemary took a deep breath, and picked up her box.

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Marlene

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