A long night of celebratory love-making helped to push Sara Durant’s odd behavior to the back of his mind. Unfortunately, it came back to the surface when Maggie left for work in the morning.
As he poured himself a cup of coffee, Shane struggled to think of a time before her getting let go that Sara had acted so awkwardly around him. Even when Shane included the one chili cookoff that he and Sara had gotten in a friendly argument over, it hadn’t gotten to such weird levels of awkward for him.
On the drive in, Shane blasted the Elvis Duran in the Morning Show and managed to bury his concerns about Sara Durant beneath prank phone calls and comedic interviews. By the time that Shane reached his office, Sara was a distant memory.
Before he was out of his car, Steve Horton was coming out of the back lot glass door and marching toward Shane’s car.
“Look,” Steve was saying as Shane got out of his car, “I did everything I could.”
“What are you talking about?” Shane was confused, but he couldn’t help but feel Sara Durant’s name floating back to the surface of his mind.
“The decision came from Chicago. I don’t know how, but she managed to convince someone that she still had something of value to offer us.”
Shane didn’t even ask. It was all too obvious to him what was going on.
When Shane rushed past Steve, his manager, he didn’t even swerve to avoid crashing into him. Instead, Steve jumped out of Shane’s way and was still bumped by Shane’s laptop bag.
Once in the CIT building, he made his way toward his new office without slowing.
Boxes filled with his stuff were stacked neatly outside of the office. The door to the office was shut but unlocked.
Shane threw the door open and continued his stride into the office that had been his only a few hours ago.
“What the fuck is going on Sara?”
He didn’t hide how pissed off and confused he was. He needed her to see that he wasn’t going to take any of this.
“I told you that I had a backup plan.” Sara was very calm and leaning back in her chair as if she had never lost it.
“Don’t give me that bullshit,” Shane wasn’t shouting but his voice was filled with righteous anger. “You lost this job, and I earned it. What the fuck are you doing in my chair?”
Real sympathy, not the stuff a salesman or someone trying to empathize would use, filled Sara’s face.
“I’ve been doing this too long,” she sighed and her eyes looked like they were about to spill tears. “I can’t do anything else. I don’t know how to do anything else. So, I made a deal.”
“With who?” Shane demanded. “Was it Brent Lamar?” He was referencing the Human Resources director. “Did you have something on Steve that you could leverage? Or were you sitting on a huge deal until the day something like this happened?”
Sara shook her head and tears were actually sliding down her cheeks. “It’s nothing like that.” Her body started to shake as her tears evolved into actual sobs. It was confusing to Shane. She was essentially saying that she made a deal to get her job back, taking it away from Shane and with it Shane’s dreams of the Global Account Manager position.
Yet, she was the one crying. Shane couldn’t help but wonder what she had given up to get her job back.
None of the confusion alleviated his anger.
“Then tell me what it’s like. I am going to fix this.”
Sara looked up at him and wiped her eyes. “Unfortunately for both of us, I don’t think this can be ‘fixed’.” She reached into her desk and pulled out a card. She slid it across the desk to him. “They, um,” the words seemed to catch in her throat, “grant wishes.”
“Grant wishes? What the fuck does that mean?”
“You tell them what you want, and they make it happen, but that’s all I can say.”
Shane slapped his hand down on the card and picked it up to read it.
“I bet that’s all you can say,” he mumbled as he read the card.
It only read “Perdition Investments” and had a phone number beneath it. Otherwise, the card was entirely blank.
“Is this a joke?” He held the card out as if he was about to throw it back at her. He had no intention of losing the card, though. He was going to reach out to them to find out where to send the lawyers.
“No, it’s real.” Sara held her hands wide essentially saying, “The results speak for themselves.”
Shane frowned. “How much did it cost you?” Maybe when his lawyers were done destroying Perdition Investments, they could get her whatever she paid for it back.
“It doesn’t work like that,” Sara gave instead of an explanation. “I really can’t talk about it. It’s part of the…” she paused again as another word got lost on its way out, “contract. I can’t say anything other then recommend that people give them a call.” She opened her computer and wiped her eyes, making an effort to avoid eye-contact with Shane. “And that’s what I’ve done. I’ve recommended that you give them a call. Now,” she looked at Shane, but she was trying very hard to keep the look from turning into tears, “I have work to do and you need to get out of my office.”
Shane had to refrain from doing something outrageous. Punching a wall, kicking a trashcan, or breaking a laptop all came to mind, but he held it all back. Instead he turned and slammed her door.
He let his feet carry him to Steve’s office, but Steve wasn’t there. No one was where they should have been. Instead, everyone had been hanging out near the end of the hall, listening in to everything that went on in Shane’s former office.
When he had reached Steve’s office he leaned on his manager’s desk and waited for Steve to catch up.
“That was intense,” Steve ventured in an attempt to break the thick fog of Shane’s anger that seemed to permeate every inch of his office.
“Shut up and listen,” Shane said it calmly and with no malice in his voice, but his words demanded to be heard. “You and this company are very close to losing me. Are you aware of the revenue potential that you will have traded if you lose me because she was hired back on?”
Before Steve could answer, Shane held up his hand to stop him.
“Don’t worry about it, I’ve already done the simple math. If I keep going as I’ve gone this year, I’m on track to bring this company over a million dollars this year.” Shane’s anger finally showed as he jabbed his finger in the direction of Sara Durant’s office. “She hasn’t brought in thirty thousand dollars in the last six months.”
Steve opened his mouth to speak, but Shane cut him off again.
“So, what I want to know is what you are going to do to make me want to stay.”
Steve wasn’t sure if Shane was going to cut him off again, so he waited until it was obvious that Shane actually wanted him to speak.
“Shane, this was as much a surprise to me as it was to you.” Shane was about to call Steve on what he suspected was bullshit, but it was Steve’s turn to raise a hand, “That means that I am not prepared with an offer to keep you, but I obviously want to and you have the best case. Give me twenty-four hours and I will come back with something better than what you just lost.”
“That’s fair enough,” Shane replied, “but so was firing Sara Durant. My faith in CIT has been shaken. I expect you to remember that when you’re speaking to whoever you need to speak to about whether or not I leave you.” He steepled his fingers on Steve’s desk. “I’m also taking that same twenty-four hours as paid leave.” Shane turned and walked to the door before turning and adding, “One more thing, if anyone says that the revenue I bring in isn’t worth it, try to remind them that I’ve backed up all of my current customer base on an external cloud. My clients will be going with me. If I walk out of this office, I’m taking over ten million dollars of potential revenue for the next several years with me.”
Shane didn’t look to see what Steve’s reaction was and instead kept walking until he was back at his car.
Trying to explain the situation to Maggie was the most difficult part of Shane’s day. He didn’t think that he fully understood what had happened, so how could he explain it to her. Unfortunately, he didn’t have long to find out. When his phone rang, he contemplated not picking it up, but doing so would only encourage her to text him, and he didn’t want to have this conversation over text.
“Hey, how’s work?” Maggie’s voice came over the Bluetooth connection in Shane’s car.
“In flux,” Shane responded. It wasn’t meant to be cryptic by any means so much as it was a commentary on his mental processes. All of this might turn out great for him once Steve had a chance to plead Shane’s case to the upper management. On the other hand, everything in nature preferred the easiest path. Streams flowed around rocks, fish swam with the current, and humans usually chose to keep things exactly how they were if the alternative meant actually doing some work.
“Oh my, what’s going on?”
“I don’t even know, to be completely honest. Sara Durant’s dinner party last night was celebrating her ability to convince someone in a position of power to give her job back to her.”
Maggie wasn’t sure how to respond at first. “What does that mean for you?”
“It means that I was just promoted and then demoted back to my original position with no bump in pay,” he shook his head at the idea even though Maggie could see him. “I stepped out after demanding that they give me a reason to stay. I gave them a day to figure it out.”
“Good for you. Do you think they’ll come back with an offer?”
Shane thought about that for a second. They would have to give him something. If they didn’t he would gladly take his contacts and sell them to the highest bidder. Those contracts and his sales record were going to belong to someone who could use them, he just needed to evaluate his options.
To answer Maggie, he said, “I gave them little choice, but anything could happen at this point.” All of it was mind-blowing. “I mean anything at all could happen. I was positive that nothing could save Sara’s position with CIT, but she figured something out.”
“Why did they hire her back?”
“She said that she made a deal and then she gave me a card for Perdition Investments.”
Maggie mulled over the name for only a moment before saying, “I’ve never heard of them.”
“Me either, but I reverse looked up the phone number and am headed to their offices now, I think.” Shane’s righteousness was flaring up again. How could any company out there pull this kind of bullshit on him? “I’m going to speak to them and if they don’t do something to correct the actions that they’ve made I am more than willing to call a lawyer and get this ironed out the legal way.”
“Fuck their shit up,” Maggie whooped into the phone.
They talked for a little while longer until his GPS let him know that he was almost there. Once the phone call was over, Shane kept his eyes open for the location.
He was in the middle of nowhere. The reverse lookup address had taken him to a large empty field filled with tall grass and about thirty miles out of town. Shane checked the GPS address against the reverse directory lookup twice before deciding that the error wasn’t on his part.
He was about to turn around when he saw a carved wooden sign on a lone fence post along the side of the road. Figuring he had nothing to lose, Shane let the car roll to a stop in front of the post.
On it, the words “Perdition Investments,” were burned into the wood. The wood itself looked as if it had been originally put up back a long time ago.
Shane put the car in park and got out to look at the sign closer. He hoped to see either a forwarding address or other sort of useful information on the sign.
He didn’t expect to see anything on the sign and wasn’t disappointed. The only thing on the entire sign was the name of the company. There wasn’t even an address for the location, so he couldn’t figure out how his GPS even knew this was the right place. With no housing or anything for as far as he could see, there wasn’t anything that Shane could detect that would have been used in determining the address of the large empty field.
Taking a moment, he cast his eyes across the field, wondering if he was missing anything. There weren’t even woods against the field, it just continued off into the distance. Shane could see hills and what looked like they might have been windmills at the edge of the horizon, but nothing of value.
Just like the rest of his day, this location was a bust.
Shane turned back toward his car and started when he realized someone was leaning against the passenger side door with her hands in her pockets.
She was a shorter woman with dark brown hair and large brown eyes. She was dressed in a lady’s business suit that Shane couldn’t tell if it was black or a very dark red. Her hair was longer, but it was impossible to tell how long, as she had it up in a bun. Also notable were the large and numerous gold and silver bracelets on each of her wrists. This lady liked her bling.
Her interesting outfit and sudden appearance weren’t the oddest thing about this random woman leaning against his Sebring in the middle of nowhere just outside of Crescent Hill. The oddest thing about this random woman was that there were no vehicles anywhere aside from Shane’s. She was either hiding in the grass and waiting for him to turn his back, or she had just appeared out of thin air.
“Are you looking for someone?” Her voice was deeper than he would have guessed, but still not outside of the range of the average female pitch.
Shane eyed her and didn’t attempt hide his suspicion from his face. “I’m looking for Perdition Investments,” he hooked his thumb to indicate the wooden sign behind him. “You wouldn’t happen to have any idea where they might have moved to, would you?”
She raised an eyebrow at him in a similar way that Maggie did when she wanted more information. “What led you to trying to locate them?”
Shane retrieved the business card that he had acquired from Sara from his pocket. He held it up to show it to the new woman.
“I was given your card and I prefer meeting people in person, not on the phone.”
“Obviously,” she stated without inflection.
The mysterious woman came away from Shane’s car and stuck out her hand. “My name is Sherrie Webster. I am the Sales Manager at Perdition Investments. What can I help you with?”
Shane looked around, being careful to closely examine the field behind the sign as well as the one across the street from it. “I would prefer to have this conversation in an office.”
“I’m sure you would,” Sherrie said with a pleasant lilt to her voice. “Unfortunately, our headquarters is out of state, and our sales reps work remotely.” She shrugged and smiled. “It’s a new world or work. Everything is remote.”
Shane wanted to ask about the sign or why they even had a listed address if it didn’t lead to anything in particular, but decided that he needed to get to the business at hand.
“What do you do at Perdition Investments?”
“As I mentioned previously, I’m the Sales Manager.”
Shane shook his head, “I mean in a more general sense. What is the product that your sales team sells?” He shrugged. “Give me your elevator pitch.”
Sherrie Webster crossed her hands in front of her and said, “At Perdition Investments we specialize in leveraging your unused resources to provide the means with which you can achieve your dreams or increase your quality of life.”
“That’s a pretty way of saying a lot of nothing, don’t you think?” Shane had never heard a vaguer elevator pitch in his life. Elevator pitches were supposed to define a company’s goals in a short sentence or two, but this one still didn’t explain the product or what resources would be getting leveraged to achieve whatever the desired results are.
She nodded. “What can I help you with?”
“Do you have a client by the name of Sara Durant?”
Sherrie shook her head. “I don’t make it a practice to discuss my clients, and that includes whether or not they are my clients.”
Shane nodded but kept pressing. “I’m going to assume that you know exactly who she is. I have a problem with whatever service you provided for Ms. Durant. Whatever you did to reverse her misfortune has caused me misfortune. I was promoted when she lost her job. When you did whatever it was that you do to get her job back, I was removed from my new position.” Shane was keeping his voice even and his emotions in check. If he let his emotions drive the conversation than he would have lost before he started.
“And what can I do about that?”
“Excuse me?” Shane had expected her to give some pushback, but he was prepared. “That’s hardly a company line. From what little I know about Perdition Investments, you give people what they want for a price. What I want is Sara Durant’s position at CIT.” He put his hands into his pockets. “How much?”
Sherrie looked him up and down and whipped out her phone. She swiped once, and then twice, before tapping out a message on the keyboard. She waited, looked at Shane again, and then returned to tapping away on her screen.
“Are you ignoring me?” It was just rude to pull out a phone in the middle of a sales meeting, and Shane had no illusions that this was a sales meeting, even if he intended to see her process and then give all of the information to his lawyer.
“Not at all,” Sherrie answered. “I’m looking up the value of your request and texting upper management to see if the deal is something we can work out.”
Shane nodded and waited. After about thirty seconds her phone beeped and Sherrie Webster frowned.
“Well?” Shane asked.
“I can’t offer you what you’ve asked for,” Shane had expected her to say as much. Going back on her deal with Sara would destroy Perdition Investments’ credibility. “But,” Sherrie continued, “I’ve been told to make a different offer to you.”
That wasn’t something that Shane had expected and he found himself without words. To his mild relief, Sherrie took that to mean, “Please continue.”
“You’re good at what you do?”
Shane was expecting to hear more of the offer, not more questions.
“I suppose so, but you don’t even know my name.” He frowned at her. “I could be lying to you about being good at my job.”
Sherrie nodded. “You could be, but I would know.”
She held up her phone and read off of the screen. “According to my manager, you’re Shane Lowe. Shane Lowe is currently ranked as the number one sales rep at Computer Information Technologies.” She put her phone away and smiled at Shane. “As a matter of fact, in the last year you have been the number one sales rep for at ten of those months. Would it be safe to say that you are great at your job?”
Shane hesitated before nodding. “How did you figure out my name?”
“Now isn’t the time for that question. Ask a different one.”
Shane wasn’t in control of this conversation, and that wasn’t how he had meant for any of this to go. “This isn’t why I am here. I don’t want a new job, I want Sara Durant’s job.”
Sherrie shook her head. “No, you don’t. You want more. More money, more stuff, more love. Everything in your life isn’t good enough for you, but you know it can be as long as you reach just a little farther.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “So, ask me the correct question.”
Shane sighed. “What’s the offer?”
Sherrie uncrossed her arms. “Do what you do, but do it for us, and get paid more money than you ever thought you could want.”
Shane walked past her, slapping the card into her hand as he did and got into his car.
He rolled down the window. “You will be hearing from my lawyers.”
Sherrie looked at the card in her hand before clasping her hands behind her back. “I sincerely doubt it, Mr. Lowe.” She paused. “Why don’t you keep our card, just in case you decide to entertain our offer?”
Before she could offer the card back to him, Shane shifted his car into drive and took off down the road.