Ever since the world has shut down, my company has been holding daily meetings over Zoom. The first day, every single person from our office dressed in our usual work attire and had the rooms behind us spotlessly cleaned. We tried our best to remain professional, to create the appearance we had our lives together.
But lately, everyone has stopped caring. People show up in pajamas, without makeup, wearing oversized hats and sunglasses to cover their faces. They let their kids run around in the background. They let their dogs bark without shushing them or muting their microphone. It’s gotten a lot more casual. A lot more who-gives-a-fuck.
Working from home simply doesn’t suit me. It’s been hard to concentrate on whatever my bosses are discussing during our meetings. My eyes always end up wandering. I’ve come up with a game where I pick a new cube to focus on every time. A few days ago, it was Martha.
She’s an older woman. A quiet, gentle woman. Someone who blends into the background. We’ve worked together for three years and I couldn’t tell you the first thing about her. Does she have a husband? A cat? A kid? Her background didn’t give anything away, either. There weren’t any paintings hung on the walls or knickknacks spread around. Only a stack of books without titles. Moleskins and spirals and…
My notebook. I had lost it at the office a few months earlier. It was filled with a few of my poems and short stories, meaningless words that meant the world to me. I dug through every garbage can and desk drawer in our office trying to find it.
Without letting my phone appear on camera, I sent off a text to my best friend, my favorite coworker, Elaine. I could tell when she read it. Her eyes dropped to skim the text. Then she leaned forward, squinting, clearly examining Martha in her tiny box.
Elaine’s eyes went wide. A few seconds later, I received a text back. “The bitch is wearing my earrings!!!”
“No. Fucking. Way.”
We texted back and fourth a few more times, deciding it would be unprofessional to call someone out in the middle of a meeting filled with dozens of higher-ups who could fire us for causing drama. But once the meeting ended, Elaine popped up on my phone.
“What is her problem?” she asked the second I answered. “Who wears jewelry she stole in front of the person she stole it from?”
“Maybe she was taunting us,” I said. “Maybe she’s gotten bored. If she’s stuck inside like the rest of us, she hasn’t been able to steal things lately. Maybe she needed to entertain herself in some other twisted way.”
“Should we call her or something?”
“I don’t have her number.”
“Ugh. She’s not on social media, either.”
We spent over an hour bitching about her, bringing up other weird items in the office that had randomly gone missing throughout the last few months. A stapler. A desk calendar. A fancy fountain pen. Did she steal all of that?
“I have an idea,” Elaine said as the sun was setting out my apartment window. “I’m going to warn you. It’s completely illegal. But stealing our stuff is also illegal, so it would balance out. Karmically.”
“We’re not breaking into her place. We don’t even know her address.”
“Nope. We don’t have to leave our houses. We can do this from a safe distance. The guy I’ve been talking to on Bumble is a hacker. He can get into her laptop camera. We can see around the rest of her house.”
“I don’t know… That seems like…”
“An invasion of privacy? Yeah. You bet your ass. No worse than what she did to us, though.”
I chewed on my fingernails, knowing it was wrong, knowing it wasn’t going to end well, but quarantine had me so fucking bored.
“Fine,” I said. “Let’s do it.”
It took her boyfriend a few days to set things up, but we had plenty of time on our hands, so we weren’t complaining. Once he completed the project, he beamed Martha’s camera feed to both me and Elaine.
Even once we were set up and ready to spy, it still took about a week and a half for us to see anything new. Martha kept her laptop in the same exact spot, never picking it up or even closing it, so we saw the same background whenever we checked.
Finally, thankfully, we discovered she did have a cat. It nudged the computer sideways one evening, giving us a completely different angle of the room. We could finally see what she was hiding.
An entire wall filled with faces.
They looked like Halloween masks, plastic with painted on features. But they each resembled a different person from our office. Mine had winged liner near the eyes and peach lipstick over the mouth. Elaine’s had blue eye shadow and bright red lipstick in her exact shade.
On pins above each mask, wigs hung down, draping around the faces. Mine looked exactly like my hair. Elaine’s looked exactly like hers. There were other people from the office too, our colleagues, our bosses. Except they were always female.
Elaine threw up when she saw everything. She literally ran to the bathroom and vomited. I just sat there, staring, taking screenshoot after screenshot. Of course, we can’t do anything with the evidence. If we show our bosses, we’re going to have to explain how we hacked into her computer. Besides, whatever she was doing with the masks was creepy as hell, but it wasn’t exactly illegal. It wouldn’t be reason to fire her.
We’re hoping to catch her in the act of stealing whenever we return to the office, so we can get her out of our lives for good, but honestly, a part of me isn’t sure whether we should get on her bad side. I would rather stay far, far away and pretend I never saw any of this.