by Inara Everett
Dylan finally lands his first job. His boss, Larry, steals Dylan's ideas and pretends they're his. Dylan angrily protests – only to find himself unceremoniously sacked.
Unemployed once again, Dylan burns for revenge. To please his family, he consults a lawyer and starts a lawsuit – all the while secretly plotting a workplace massacre.
Will Dylan go through with his brutal plan? His life spins in and out of control – and he must confront his violent past – as he wrestles with his desire for vengeance.
Dylan examined his appearance in the full-length mirror at the end of the hall. He disliked the spikiness of his newly cut hair, and thought for the millionth time about how he detested his large, rounded nose. But when he smiled at his reflection, to his surprise, he looked almost handsome.
In the eight months since graduating from high school in 1999, Dylan had sent out hundreds of job applications, and received exactly one offer – for the job he was starting today. As he finished getting ready, he wondered if he’d meet any hot chicks at his new place of employment, his face brightening at the thought. He had never had a real girlfriend – only friends who were girls – and desperately hoped this was about to change.
Dylan called out a goodbye to his Uncle Jack and Aunt Marcie, who were eating breakfast in the kitchen of the ranch bungalow where they all lived. Jack and Marcie weren’t really his aunt and uncle but good friends of his family, as well as his godparents. Dylan’s own parents had recently decided to take an eighteen-month “voluntourism” trip now that all their children had graduated from high school, and they were in Sri Lanka, helping a local community build a school. Jack and Marcie had no children of their own. Dylan knew they thought of him as the son they never had, which he appreciated, but also frustrated the hell out of him – too many questions, too much nagging.
“Good luck at your first day at work,” Jack said. “Remember – be polite.”
Dylan wondered what his uncle thought he planned on doing at work – telling his boss to shut up, or screaming at his co-workers for some minor infraction? Geez, he wasn’t a kid anymore. He was a man with a job.
A few patches of snow covered the ground and Dylan shivered as he walked down the driveway. Jack and Marcie’s home, in the same suburb as his parents’, had a spectacular view of the Rockies and backed onto a forested area, giving the place an isolated feel. It gave off a sense of loneliness that Dylan didn’t like – he preferred to have more people around, and he planned on getting his own place as soon as he could afford it. But on a minimum wage salary, that was going to take a while.
Dylan got in his car, a used BMW his parents had given him in high school. His breath quickly fogged up the interior windows. He turned on the ignition and let the fan blow for a while, and once the windows had cleared he backed out and drove out of the subdivision. He passed by empty fields with occasional patches of tall grasses before he reached the highway, where he merged with the other traffic.
Surrounded by commuter traffic, on his way to his first real job, Dylan revelled in his new feeling of independence – he was a working man now, not an unpopular kid in high school. Thank God the misery of high school was over – particularly the six months of probation he had suffered through for owning an illegal handgun. He would never forget the judge yelling at him to get his act together, and a cop telling him that if he didn’t watch out he’d be on his way to hell in a handbasket. What a jerk, Dylan thought, and just what is hell in a handbasket anyway?
But now, Dylan had a full-time job. He’d proven the judge and cop wrong. He would get a steady paycheque. Soon he’d be able to buy a new computer, video games, clothes and maybe a new car – and best of all, eventually get his own place. Oh man, it was going to be great. He turned on the car stereo and put in a CD; the sun was shining and he turned the music up loud.
As Dylan rounded a curve on the highway he saw his workplace: an eight-storey building with a stylized checkbox and arrow logo and the name “LOGIN” affixed to the exterior. LOGIN, short for Logical Solutions International, provided office management technology, including both software and hardware, for the business community. The company had branch offices in fifteen countries; Dylan’s job, as an IT support representative, was at the company’s head office in Denver, Colorado.
Dylan took an exit ramp and then inched through stop-and-go traffic for a mile or so. In spite of the slow traffic, he reached the LOGIN building about ten minutes early, having built in some extra time to his trip. He parked in the front lot, turned off the car and decided to wait a few minutes before going in. But then he began fidgeting, tapping his thumb on the dashboard and shifting his feet as nervousness overwhelmed him, so he got out of the car and walked toward the building. Its exterior was made entirely of gold-coloured glass and Dylan could see the clouds reflected in its upper storeys.
LOGIN’s front entrance was attractively tiled with interlocking stones surrounded by gardens with euonymus and evergreen bushes, as well as river stones and the odd small pine tree. Dylan made his way through the revolving doors and into the spacious marble lobby, which soared three stories above him. Thriving palm trees stood in tall planters at the edges of the lobby, surrounded by exotic-looking flowering plants. The sun streamed in the gold-tinted windows. Pretty impressive, Dylan thought, feeling pleased with his new place of employment so far.
He walked toward the guard at the front desk, anticipating a cheerful greeting. But the guard, who wore a stiff suit and tie, peered at Dylan suspiciously through heavy-framed glasses. His ferret-like face had a yellowish tinge and his slightly greasy hair had a short, unflattering cut.
“Yes?” he asked, raising his eyebrows. His look suggested that Dylan’s status was only slightly above that of an insect.
Well, well, well, isn’t he Mr. Friendly, Dylan thought. Great choice for reception.
“It’s my first day at LOGIN,” he said.
The guard nodded his head abruptly and showed him a list of names.
“Please check off your name and write your licence plate number in the space provided. Then you can take the elevator to the fourth floor,” he said. Dylan did as he was asked and handed back the list, which the guard took without even a thank you. Dylan hoped the other employees at LOGIN would have more people skills than this guy – although he acknowledged that his own people skills weren’t exactly outstanding.
He walked over to the elevators. The ceiling was lower in this area of the lobby and there were no palm trees, but the walls glittered with black marble and the elevators had elegant brass trim. He joined the two other people who were waiting for the next elevator to arrive, checking them out surreptitiously. One was a slight young Asian man with acne and glasses, wearing jeans and a white dress shirt – probably a computer nerd, Dylan thought – and the other looked somewhat like his aunt, plump and friendly with iron grey hair. No hot chicks so far.
When the elevator doors opened, Dylan stepped in after the other two and pushed the fourth floor button. As the elevator moved soundlessly to the next level, his earlier feelings of euphoria left him. Doubts about his new job crept in. What if he couldn’t do it? He and his friends in high school had always mocked the idea of working in an office 9 to 5, and now here he was. What if his skills were all wrong for the position? What if no one liked him?
Dylan brushed these thoughts aside as the elevator doors opened on the fourth floor. He walked across the marble floor to glass doors that opened into the reception area. He gave his name to the receptionist, an attractive woman in her forties with long dark hair that fell in waves, and she smiled and asked him to have a seat. Then she paged Dylan’s supervisor over the intercom.
“Larry Roach, please come to the front desk,” she announced.
Dylan sat down in one of the armchairs in the waiting area and picked up a magazine. Larry Roach, he thought as he leafed through the magazine, what the hell kind of a name is that? Sounds like he should have a carapace and pincers, for God’s sake. Or maybe he smokes a lot of joints – ha ha. He told himself to shut up and be polite as his uncle had advised.
Larry approached Dylan a few moments later.
“Dylan?” he asked, and when Dylan nodded his head, grabbed Dylan’s hand and shook it hard. “Come with me, young man.”
Larry turned to Dylan as they walked down the hall.
“A word of advice,” Larry said. “You gotta work on that limp handshake. You don’t want people to think you’re a pansy, do ya?”
Dylan hid his irritation at Larry’s criticism. He studied his new boss. When Larry smiled, he revealed yellow, snaggled teeth. He stood as tall as Dylan, but was far broader, barrel-chested with a big paunch, and his wire-rimmed, outdated glasses revealed pale blue eyes. He wore navy dress pants and a light blue dress shirt which strained against his large stomach and beefy arms.
“This is your first job, isn’t it? Still wet behind the ears – you’ve got a lot to learn,” Larry said with a superior-sounding chuckle.
Dylan gave a small nod. He detected a hint of mockery in Larry’s tone. Great, it’s only been two minutes and I don’t like my boss already, he thought.
“Let me show you the kitchen first. You can grab a coffee if you want,” Larry said.
They stopped in front of a room at the end of the hall. It held a table and chairs, fridge, stove, sink and dishwasher. Larry pointed out the coffee pot and showed Dylan the cupboard where he could get a mug.
“Your mug has to be put in the dishwasher at the end of the day, or Sylvia, the floor monitor, will have your hide,” Larry said, evidently taking it very seriously.
God, he’s worse than Uncle Jack and Aunt Marcie, Dylan thought.
As Dylan poured himself a coffee, two workers, a young man and woman, came into the kitchen. Dylan and Larry overheard them chatting about a meeting with one of the LOGIN managers.
“Don’t forget to send your reply to the meeting request you received. I already did,” Larry interrupted them. “It’s important to reply so that the meeting agenda lists everyone attending it.”
The man nodded his head and gave Larry a forced smile. When Larry turned to pour himself some coffee, Dylan saw the man and woman laughing at him behind his back.
“Hi, I’m Will,” the man said. “You must be the new IT guy. Just ignore Larry and his obsessive rule-making or he’ll drive you crazy.” Larry grunted and rolled his eyes in reply.
Will was very thin, with a scraggly beard and a friendly grin; his shirt had come untucked in the back. The woman’s long, dark hair hung below her shoulders, framing the Asian features of her delicate, pretty face. She appeared to be in her twenties and smiled shyly at Dylan, introducing herself as Mandy. Now this is getting interesting, Dylan thought as he shook her hand. He gave her an admiring glance as she left the kitchen with Will.
Dylan picked up his coffee mug and followed Larry past a bank of cubicles and down another hall. The hall opened into a large, fluorescent-lit room filled with rows and rows of grey cubicles and after winding his way through the maze of desks Larry showed Dylan his workspace. The cubicle had just enough room for a chair and two drawers.
“Your name’s already up,” Larry said, pointing to a placard on the exterior of the cubicle. Dylan smiled weakly. The hive-like aspect of the rows of cubicles, with all the worker bee employees tap-tap-tapping away diligently on their keyboards, was just like what he and his friends had laughed about in high school. And not only that, Larry seemed like a loser.
Just my luck to get Weird Larry as a boss, Dylan thought, and I’m going to have to look at his ugly mug every morning. He tried to put a positive spin on it, noting that Larry had taken the time to show him around a bit, but wasn’t able to force down a feeling of gloom.
“You’ll have access to email soon,” Larry said, revealing his yellow, snuggle-toothed smile again. “There’s an online presentation for new employees you can review for now. We’ve got a meeting at ten thirty and I’ll introduce you to a few of the managers. They always like to meet new employees.”
He pointed to Dylan’s computer screen, which flashed Welcome to LOGIN! with an icon labelled “Click here to begin” below. Larry told Dylan to ask him if he had any questions about the online presentation. Then he walked to a cubicle across from Dylan’s, sat down and began working.
Dylan jammed himself into his cubicle. At six foot four, his long legs barely fit under the desk. He clicked to open the online seminar and was surprised by its rudimentary technology. There’s no interactivity and way too much text, he thought. He debated whether to mention this to Larry and decided against it, concluding it would be best to keep his opinions to himself on his first day.
After half an hour, Larry stood up.
“Ok, let’s go to our meeting,” he said. “We can get a snack at the vending machines on our way.”
As they walked, Larry told Dylan he had worked at LOGIN for six months, after leaving his previous job at a tech company in Michigan.
“I was the team leader in IT sales back in Michigan,” he said, going into a long, boring ramble about his sales duties and some award he had won. Dylan noted that Larry’s prior job seemed to involve the sale of computer equipment rather than actually working with software – he didn’t seem to have much real IT experience. Dylan also noticed that Larry wore no wedding ring and didn’t mention anything about a wife or kids in discussing his move from Michigan. With that paunch and great personality, I’m sure Weird Larry’s a real chick magnet, Dylan thought. Not.
Larry stopped in front of one of the vending machines that stood in a row at the end of the hall. He fished around in his pocket for change, put a bunch of quarters into the machine and punched out a number and letter on the grid on the front of the machine. There was a brief whirring noise and then the clip at the front of one of the rows of food items behind the glass opened to release a large Danish pastry into the trough of the machine. Larry pulled the huge, greasy-looking pastry out of the trough and peeled back its plastic wrapper. He took a big bite out of the pastry and began chewing noisily.
“Want one?” he asked Dylan, who shook his head.
Larry and Dylan continued walking until they came to a small room with a frosted glass door labelled 105. Larry went in and plunked down in one of the chairs surrounding a large table which nearly filled up the room on its own. Dylan sat down in another chair. As they waited for the others to arrive, Larry continued to chew his Danish noisily; a ridge of crumbs formed at the side of his mouth. Dylan tried not to stare but found his eyes returning to the glued-on pastry flakes with morbid fascination.
To distract himself from Larry’s chewing, Dylan studied the room. The table had a black surface and the metal-framed chairs had burnt-orange polyester padding, a change from LOGIN’s ubiquitous shades of grey.
“You know, you could add a few black cat decorations and we could hold a Halloween party here,” Dylan said, to make conversation and to drown out the sound of the chewing. He desperately wanted the chewing to stop – and it did, as Larry stared at him with a puzzled expression.
“You know, the colours in here – black and orange for Halloween,” Dylan clarified.
“Oh yeah,” Larry replied. “Whoever chose the colour scheme must’ve had their sense of decor up their ass.”
Dylan laughed. At least they agreed on something.
A woman came into the room and sat down at the table.
“Hi, you must be Dylan,” she said, reaching over the table to shake Dylan’s hand. “I’m Nora Balodis, Senior IT Manager. I’ll be chairing today’s meeting.” Middle-aged, short and plump, she had slightly frizzly blond hair and very blue eyes, with round, owlish glasses. She gave Dylan a friendly smile.
Next, a young man entered the room and introduced himself as Carl Colacicco, IT support manager. Tall and muscular, with handsome features, dark hair and smooth skin, he was maybe ten years older than Dylan. He looked confident and capable.
“Hi, Dylan,” he said, giving him a firm handshake.
Carl and Nora seem okay, Dylan thought, his mood picking up.
A few more men and women entered the room, and then Nora asked Dylan to tell everyone a bit about himself. Never good in front of a crowd, Dylan felt his mind go blank. It felt like a barrier coming down inside his brain, preventing the synapse from retrieving the desired words. The more he panicked, the blanker his mind became.
“I…I…it’s like, um…” he gabbled. Finally he closed his mouth, took a deep breath and forced himself to start talking. Mercifully, the blankness dissipated.
“I’ve had experience as, like, an IT tutor in high school,” Dylan said. “I’ve also designed video games and software programs.”
Carl asked him about the video games and Dylan launched into a discussion about KAOS, his most popular game. Nora smiled and nodded encouragingly as he spoke.
“Thanks, Dylan. We’re all looking forward to getting to know you better,” she said when he finished speaking. He felt good about the introduction in spite of his awkward beginning.
Nora looked at her agenda and began discussing the first item – something from her department’s budget. The managers reviewed it at length and went on to talk about a number of other topics that didn’t sound too interesting to Dylan, but when Nora mentioned the marketing department’s work on email sales notifications to clients, he listened closely. He knew a lot about this, having created a program himself in high school that handled automatic emails.
“Larry, can you help us out with this?” Nora asked.
“Nah, it’s a new area,” Larry replied. “I’ll see if I can hire a consultant to give us some advice.”
“I was involved with email notifications at my high school and set up a program that sent automatic emails to everyone on various lists,” Dylan piped up. “I could help out on that project if you want.”
Everyone looked at Dylan in surprise. Carl asked Dylan for details about the program, which he happily provided, talking enthusiastically for several minutes. This was a subject he knew thoroughly – no blank-outs here.
“Dylan, I’m really impressed with your know-how on this,” Carl said. “Maybe you could help us develop our program.”
Larry shot Dylan a stay-off-my-turf look which startled Dylan, but he forgot about it as he continued discussing the automatic email program.
“Dylan, you really know your technology,” another manager said. A murmur of agreement filled the room.
“I’ll send you an invitation to attend the next meeting on the notifications,” Carl said. Dylan smiled and nodded an agreement. “Larry, there’s no need for you to come, since Dylan seems to know so much about it.”
Larry didn’t reply. Instead, he glowered at Dylan across the table.
“That’s it for today’s meeting,” Nora announced. “Thanks for coming. And I’m sure everyone will agree that it’s been a real pleasure meeting Dylan.”
The managers gave Dylan a round of applause before they left the room, chatting and joking with each other as they walked down the hall. Larry and Dylan walked together in the opposite direction as they headed back to their cubicles. Once they were alone, Larry turned furiously to Dylan.
“Okay, you little bastard, don’t you ever show me up like that again,” he said, his voice low but very sharp. “If you pull another stunt like that, I’ll make sure you regret it.”
“But…but…I was just helping out,” Dylan replied, his forehead furrowing in shocked puzzlement.
“Oh, I get it. You think you’re better than me, don’t you?”
“I never said that.”
“I could tell you were a smart-assed punk as soon as I saw you, but the hiring committee insisted on bringing you in. I’m warning you, stay in your place or you’re gonna be real sorry.”
Larry gave Dylan a look of disgust and walked away at a rapid pace, leaving Dylan standing in the hall in open-mouthed astonishment.
I really got into the main character Dylan. He really suffered when his boss fired him, and his pathetic love for his imaginary friend Elvie fascinated me.
I found the book's alternate reality approach to the Columbine killers intriguing. I've always wondered what would have happened to them if the police had stopped them before the massacre - now I have a thought-provoking answer. We all need to hope that evil can be purged or else give up to defeat.
I read this book because I enjoyed reading I.Y. Everett's prior novel - Judging Nicky. These two books are very different - and both very good. Everett has a great range.
This book got my attention and kept it from beginning to end. A great read!
About the Author
Inara Everett is a Canadian lawyer and writer with a passion for all things jurisfictional. Jurisfiction describes the genre of legal fiction - fiction with a law-related theme. Inara's blog, jurisfictional.com, covers her e-publishing experiences and thoughts about life in this crazy, infuriating, uplifting, exciting world.