“Hello?” I answered.
“Hi, Tess, it’s Zoe Sparks from Luhrman-Rothstein,” she said, bubbly as usual. “I’m just calling to see how the interview went?”
“Oh, great,” I said, not even uncomfortable. “Everything’s great. I already got the job, and Mr. Wilhelm says that if I stay with them, he’ll even put me through law school.”
“Tess, that’s wonderful news.” She sounded genuinely surprised. “You’re very lucky that you found a firm willing to do that. You should stay with them as long as you can!”
“Yep, that’s the plan,” I said.
Just as I ended the call, Mr. Wilhelm came back in with a stack of papers. “That’s everything you’ll need,” he said as he handed them to me. “Your I-9s, your W-2s, the employee contract, and of course that NDA.”
“I thought I was getting paid through Luhrman-Rothstein,” I said. You know, the agency I actually work for.
“Oh, about that,” he said, “I had their finance department assign your contract to me.”
Assignment. I knew this term from Contract Law; he now had all the obligations, duties, and rights that came with being my employer.
“Great,” I said. “Could I borrow a pen?” Or would you prefer that I sign in blood?
“Of course.” He handed me a nice rolling ink one, and brushed away some blood-crusted papers to clear a space for me on the desk. I scrawled my convoluted signatures and initials on all the highlighted fields.
“There,” I said when I finished. I handed him the papers.
“And it’s a deal,” he said with a foreboding almost-smile.
At this point I knew, beyond reasonable doubt, that Alec Wilhelm might actually be the devil.
He used his black suit sleeve to wipe the blood off the paperweight, and placed it back on his desk. The scorpion inside suddenly seemed a lot creepier. Mr. Wilhelm stayed standing, watching me with detached amusement. I just watched the light-draining negative energy in his eyes, and said nothing.
Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when you’re face-to-face with a tiger – don’t break eye contact? I figured any reaction would be the wrong reaction. This whole interview had to be some sick way of testing me, otherwise he would’ve killed me already. Did he want to see how I’d react? All I could feel was a numb shock spreading through me like a Botox injection; in a strange way it almost calmed me. Any possible emotions were null and void, and my face froze into a mask.
Still, I figured I should probably say something. I’d have to be tactful, though. No way was I going to get killed by some nut-job who looks like Freddy from Scooby Doo.
“Mr. Wilhelm,” I said, tentatively at first, “may I speak candidly?”
“Of course, Tessie, what is it?” I didn’t appreciate the nickname, but I wasn’t about to complain.
“It’s just…” I tilted my head toward the human remains on the floor. How should I phrase this? “That doesn’t seem like a very pro-social thing you did just now.”
He put on an innocent blank stare; his audacity was almost funny. “Oh? And what are you alleging that I did, exactly?”
An all-out accusation probably wouldn’t go over well, I decided. “Are you saying Chantal doesn’t look a bit…injured … to you?”