For Her Protection(7)

By: Amber A Bardan



For the past several weeks striking staff from across Halifax Communications had turned up daily. Today they’d gone all out—at least a hundred workers filled the street. And more strikers meant more work not getting done, more contractors to be hired to cover them and more money being lost. At least she’d have the first step achieved today.

A few feet from the entrance someone called her name. The crowd roared but she kept her head up, her pace steady. She reached the doors and her muscles relaxed. A sharp force impacted the back of her skull. Pain radiated into her brain and she clutched the back of her head, stumbling inside.

In the foyer she lowered her hand in front of her face. Sticky red blood streaked her palm.

“Are you all right?”

She glanced up at Jenny, the front desk receptionist. “I think so. Get Bob down here please.”

Things would change, starting today.

* * * * *

Charlize held the cold pack the first aid officer had demanded she keep applied “for no less then fifteen minutes” against the back of her skull. “Two security guards, Bob? That’s all we have for two hundred strikers?”

Bob adjusted his tie and sighed. “I agree with you completely but you know how Frank has been about hiring new staff at the moment.”

“Then he should have gone to a security firm. Honestly security is a joke. My pass fails half the time.” She glanced out the window, watching two girls from accounting struggle to get into the building. “I wish I could go out there and tell them it’s going to be all right and they can all go back to their jobs. I’ll do exactly that in a few weeks, I just have to get through the next several meetings.” She glanced over her shoulder. “What if it’d been someone else? What if they’d hit someone else and they’d been really hurt?”

“I’ll have someone here as soon as possible to reevaluate security.” Bob stepped forward and placed his hand on Charlize’s shoulder. “Don’t give yourself such a hard time. You’ve only been in charge three months. There’s no magic wand.”

She placed her free hand over his wrinkled one and gave him a tight smile. Thank god for Bob. He’d been her dad’s best friend and the only one who didn’t see her as a joke. As president, he’d been a rock since her impromptu appointment as CEO after her uncle’s heart attack. “Thanks, Bob. Now I need to get ready for the meeting.” She released his hand and walked toward the elevators then paused. “I want to see someone in my office A.S.A.P to discuss security.”

Bob waved. “I’ll get the best.”

Charlize smiled at him then took the elevator to the top floor. She collected herself in the bathroom and fixed her hair before heading to her office. Her personal assistant didn’t glance up when she walked past. Charlize tossed the cold pack onto her desk then tugged off her jacket and hung it over the back of her chair. She frowned. Her glass desk sat in the center of the office—pristine as usual but missing something. She glanced around. Where were the files she’d been promised? There weren’t many out-of-sight places to put them in the spartan space. A low couch ran along one wall with a glass coffee table in front and a neat bookshelf stood against the back wall.

She wandered from her office to the reception area. Her PA Lia sat behind a desk, bobbing her head to music coming from the earphones sticking out of her ears.

“Lia,” Charlize called.

Lia’s head continued bobbing and her blonde curls bounced around her shoulders. Charlize sighed. Lia really was a shitty personal assistant. Like freaking hopeless. She was part of the problem with Halifax since Charlize’s dad had been forced to retire two years ago. This was the only kind of role for women at Halifax Communications and this was the only type of woman they hired—perky and pretty and on display. Her uncle had turned the entire company into a self-indulgent boys’ club.

“Lia.”

Lia began to hum out of tune, flicking through files on her computer screen. Her painted nails tapped loudly on the keys. Charlize knocked on top of the desk. She should have fired Lia a month ago when she’d screwed up the major report she’d been given to scan—just scan.

But how could you fire someone who was completely sweet?

Charlize leaned closer and tugged an earphone from Lia’s ear. “Hi.”

Lia looked up and beamed—beamed as if it was the best day in the whole world. Just as she did every morning. “Charlize, what can I do for you, sugar?”

“Hi, Lia, do you know where the files from accounting are?”

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