The Recruitment Drive
Rob hated his job.
That was the beginning, middle and end of it.
He hated his ungrateful clients, he hated his coworkers and most of all, he hated his boss.
The thoughts followed him as he stormed out of the building and into the fresh air.
The buzz of chatter as the other departments let out for lunch chased him like uninvited ghosts and he hurried across the full parking space, taking a seat on the bench he’d long ago mentally claimed as his own.
His hands shook as he lit his cigarette and the first drag was almost painful, the rage in his chest fighting against his lungs as he tried to breathe.
It took the entire cigarette and half of the next one for him to calm down enough to glance around the quiet plaza.
He could see some of the other employees milling about, moving from shop to shop but Rob’s gaze was drawn to a small stall set up just at the doors that opened onto the massive mall that the plaza bordered.
He couldn’t read the words on the wooden signs that propped up the stall from where he was sitting so he focused on the person manning the thing instead.
The man was tall, almost freakishly so, or maybe that was just because he was so thin, a fact not helped by the black suit that he had on.
The stranger was watching the crowd but he didn’t seem willing to actually approach anyone, yet as Rob watched, people started approaching him, most of them Rob’s own coworkers.
Rob narrowed his eyes, taking another drag as he watched them move closer, planets caught in the orbit of a dark sun.
After the fifth coworker had stopped to speak with the man, Rob figured he was probably running some recruitment drive. It didn’t surprise him that the man was attracting his fellow Arteres employees like honey attracted flies because he wasn’t the only one upset about the changes to his job.
Once upon a time, Rob had loved working as tech support for the Arteres company but that was before Marianne replaced his old boss.
Marianne was, to put it quite frankly, an idiot.
The woman was apparently family friends with the owner of the company which explained how she’d gotten her position because she didn’t seem to know the first thing about what she was doing.
At first, Rob had honestly assumed that she was intentionally trying to sabotage the business but after a meeting with her, it became clear very quickly that Marianne was just dumb.
She’d reshuffled their roles, moving Rob and his colleagues from tech to sales because she wanted ‘well-rounded employees’. The fact that sales quickly plummeted because none of the tech support had the personality needed to coax anyone into purchasing anything, apparently flew right over her head.
The complaints about the salespeople who were now working in tech support had started coming in thick and fast after the first week but Marianne refused to change things. She’d just doubled down and started having daily meetings to encourage people to do better, which usually led to a lot of shouting and even tears.
It was stupid and annoying and Rob hated it but until he found something better, he was stuck.
Another person approached the man in black and Rob scowled as he recognized Marianne. Something bitter coated his tongue at the thought of her abandoning ship after she’d messed things up for the rest of them and a vindictive part of him wanted to sabotage any chance she had of finding another place to sink her rotten nails into.
He kept his eyes on her, watching as she bent and scribbled something on the paper that the man held out towards her.
Rob stayed on the bench until she’d left then he stood and slowly made his way over.
The signs that he couldn’t see before were adverts announcing the opening of a new company and Rob quirked a brow as he read the listed benefits.
Time with your family.
A flexible work schedule and guaranteed days off.
A pretty package inviting anyone with a brain cell to give Aldicot & Sons Preparations Home a shot.
The voice snapped Rob back to the present and he frowned when he realized that he’d approached the stall without noticing it.
The man offered Rob a smile that had the hair on the back of his neck standing on end.
“It depends,” he managed to choke out. “What’s the job?”
The man cocked his head, his smile widening. “At the moment, I’m afraid you’ll all be glorified receptionists. We need new bodies to get us up and running so you’ll be doing a little bit of everything until we manage to build up our clientele,” he explained. “Interviews start on Monday, you just need to sign here, select a spot then we can talk and see if you fit.”
Rob was a natural sceptic and everything about this job was setting off warning bells in his head but he still accepted the sheet of paper and scribbled down a name. It wasn’t his name but the guy didn’t need to know that.
“So where’s the interview?”
The man waved him off, “Don’t worry about that just be here at eight on Monday, we’ll send a bus for you all.”
Rob blinked but when the man kept smiling he just shook his head. “Ok sure, I’ll see you Monday.”
The man beamed at him before turning his attention to the young woman who’d just walked up and Rob used the distraction to slip away.
The whole thing was probably a scam but if it got him a quiet Monday while the others went chasing some fairytale job then he’d take it, especially if Marianne was one of the ones who left.
Rob crushed his cigarette beneath his boot. Maybe he wouldn’t need to do anything, just let Marianne’s own stupidity ruin her life for her. After all, she’d have to quit to take up this new job and life without Marianne was worth Rob’s weight in gold.
The week rolled on and by Monday, Rob had resigned himself to living off his savings and calling in sick because if he had to deal with Marianne one more day, he was going to do something he regretted.
The thought had him reaching for his phone but before he could ring through, it rang and he sighed as he answered.
“Hello, is this Robert?” a semi-familiar voice greeted.
“Yeah,” he muttered, barely surpressing a groan when he recognized the voice of one of the nicer supervisors. He couldn’t remember her name but he could vaguely picture her face.
“I’m sorry for ringing when you’re on a late shift but there’s been an emergency so we’re wondering if you could come in early?”
That woke him right up. “What sort of emergency?”
On the other end of the phone, the supervisor hesitated. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to say over the phone but it’s all over the news. You can look it up but I just need to know if you can come in?”
The desperation in her voice had Rob sighing before he agreed and hung up.
The first thing he did was check the news.
It took some scrolling before a headline caught his eye and cold sweat washed his body at the report of an accident that had occurred early that morning. The names listed were familiar ones and that was no surprise as the sheet seemed to be filled with the names of his coworkers…or former coworkers, as it was.
Marianne’s name had a surge of guilt settling heavy in his gut as he remembered his earlier thoughts.
He’d hated Marianne but he’d just wanted her out of his life, not dead.
She was supposed to be going on her interview…
Rob’s eyes widened as he remembered the strange man and the scam he was sure he’d been pulling.
His fingers shook as he typed in the name of the company that had been on the signs.
It took him a few tries before he managed to dig up anything and what he found had bile clawing at his throat.
He’d been wrong, Aldicot & Sons Preparations Home was a legitimate company.
It was also a funeral home.
The words the odd recruiter had used flooded his head as his heart tripped over itself.
“We need new bodies to get us up and running.”
The man couldn’t have meant what it sounded like. It had to be a horrible coincidence…it had to be.