Behind the Green Curtain

By: Riley Lashea

Chapter 1

Halston & Company was like any office of its kind. The people at the top made all the money, while the work fell through the floors to pile on those at the bottom. It was an indisputable fact of life that insinuated itself into Caton’s cubicle one random Tuesday morning in September when her supervisor appeared at her shoulder with the jolting abruptness of a Jack-in-the-box.

“Could you make copies of this?” the woman barked with more irritation than authority, as if she too had just been interrupted by the work of someone else.

“Yeah, sure,” Caton replied, swiveling her chair in time to have a heavier-than-it-looked file dropped into her lap. Grunting as her supervisor walked off without a hint of thanks, Caton pushed up from the faux leather desk chair and headed for the copy room.

As far as she could tell from the snarky comments and water-cooler complaints that made up the background noise of the office, she was a minority of one, but she couldn’t care less what she did each day as long as the checks kept coming, and she wasn’t about to complain. She had lied to get the job, rounding down her education after the dozenth interviewer called her overqualified when she possessed minimal qualifications at best. A fancy degree and zero job experience qualified her for absolutely nothing, apparently, and if she had one regret in life it was that no one had asked, “You’re getting a doctorate in Philosophy?” and then slapped sense into her when she responded “Yes” with the misplaced pride of youth.

The copy room door was barely ajar, but mind about as present as it was on any given workday, Caton failed to heed the warning, walking in on an event in progress that was completely inappropriate, but hardly unexpected. A mostly-closed door at Halston & Company was the equivalent of a sock on the doorknob of a college dorm room, and it wasn’t the first time she had walked in on a similar scene in her eight months on the Halston & Company staff. The owner and CEO, Jack Halston, was a predator, a well-known and disregarded fact. Since the copy room was generally empty and provided the only privacy on the first floor, where entry-level fresh meat was kept on ice, it was one of his favorite hunting spots.

“I’m sorry,” Caton uttered. That she had seen it, not that she had interrupted. “I’ll come back.”

“Don’t be silly,” Jack responded, removing only the hand from beneath the front hem of the transcriptionist’s skirt, leaving the one blatantly on her ass. “The more the merrier.”

As was their customary dance, Caton leveled her eyes at him in a way she hoped conveyed how much that wasn’t going to happen and Jack grinned as if he thought himself the cleverest man on the planet.

“I should get back to work,” the transcriptionist said uncomfortably, stepping out of Jack’s groping hand and pushing her skirt back down her thighs.

“I didn’t realize you’d stopped.” Caton couldn’t help herself as the woman walked by, and the transcriptionist paused long enough to give her a heated glare before continuing from the room.

“Looks like it’s just the two of us,” Jack said. “Come on in.”

Making a deliberate show of pushing the door fully open, Caton walked to the copier, and Jack backed off, though not far enough for comfort. Placing the first stack of papers in the feed tray, Caton could feel his eyes on her. It took a distinct lack of imagination to know what he was thinking.

“You know...” Jack took a step closer, as if there was space to spare between them. “We still have room on the seventh floor, and I still think you should apply up there.”

His hand running down the back of her arm, Caton shrugged it off. “I don’t think I have the skills you look for up there, Sir,” she responded, willing the gears in the copier to turn faster.

“Oh, I bet you do.” Jack took another step until Caton could feel him just shy of brushing against her. It was the creep equivalent of a four-year-old holding his finger a half-inch from someone’s face and saying ‘I’m not touching you. I’m not touching you,’ and she stopped herself just short of telling Jack as much as his eyes moved over her face. “I think you have all kinds of talents you’re not telling anyone about.”

Watching the number on the copier count down, Caton’s finger hovered over the stop button, but she knew well that stopping the job mid-print would only result in a paper jam somewhere in the recesses of the machine. The last thing she wanted was to be bent over and preoccupied in Jack’s presence.

“I know you do some of Jenna’s work when she gets overwhelmed,” Jack switched tactics.

Amusement overtaking her exasperation, Caton laughed. That was putting it mildly. In the six months since Jenna was promoted to Jack’s personal assistant-cum-courtesan, Caton had done everything that crossed Jenna’s desk, except for Jack, which was one part of her job Jenna was welcome to keep for herself.

“You shouldn’t let all that talent go to waste,” Jack added, sliding another step into her as the last sheet of paper shot into the catch tray.