Lesk is a newly qualified accountant and has landed his dream job in the state's top accounting firm. His first client is a middle aged woman who owns a local family-run beauty parlour. They are a charming establishment but not all is as it seems, under the surface lies an ancient secret and with each passing day, Lesk must sink deeper into its murky depths and soon finds himself in the centre of a war as old as time, itself.
Lesk straightened his tie – the lilac one his mother had bought him – as he approached Mr. Saldirgan’s office. His heart was in his mouth but he was grinning like he’d won the lottery and, in a sense, he had. Literally hundreds of people had applied for this job and it was he who’d made the cut; it was he who was about to receive his first official client; it was he who’s nose was about an inch from the boss’s door. He recoiled slightly and half-pirouetted-half-stumbled away from the thick wooden door.
He breathed the last of his nerves away, brushed a shock of sandy-coloured hair out of his eyes with his fingers and adjusted the collar of his suit jacket before he became hyper-aware of the tiniest blemishes upon his clothing. So busy swatting at microbes of cotton and lint that weren’t there, he took no notice of the faint creak of the door swinging open or indeed the blast of light that now lit the corridor from the office’s grand bay windows.
Two deep coughs as if to clear one’s throat caused him to cease all flailing of his nimble arms and look up into the perplexed eyes of his superior. Immediately, in military fashion, he stood to attention and was a hair’s breadth away from saluting in his anxiety.
“At ease,” said the broad-shouldered, balding gentleman before him. Lesk noticed his raised eyebrow and felt the colour rush to his pale cheeks in response. “If you’re done, please do come in.”
He turned his back on Lesk and walked with silent footfalls to his desk which was situated just in front of the large windows, facing the door of course. Adjusting his tie once more, Lesk followed the man’s invite and approached the desk. It looked like it was made of oak, sturdy and expensive. He had the urge to run his fingers along its smooth edge but was distracted by another presence he hadn’t initially noticed.
On a wooden chair – possibly from the exact same tree as the desk – sat a woman with one leg crossed over the other with her hands clasped loosely together in her lap. She wore a low cut dress, an extrovert shade of fuchsia, which showed off a healthy amount of cleavage and most of her legs - and there was a lot of both to be seen. She turned her head to look up at him as he was introduced, sending a spiral of chocolate coloured hair extensions over her shoulder.
“Dolores,” she said, standing to shake his hand with a heavily tanned one of her own. “Dolores Lupone.”
“It’s a pleasure,” he smiled, bowing his head slightly and hoping she didn’t feel the sweat that was beginning to slick his fingers.
“Now, Mr Krilo,” Saldirgan announced loudly, “you are to go with Miss Lupone, here, and see to it that all her financial worries are resolved and are in order for the upcoming audit. Are we clear?”
“Yes sir,” Lesk replied, fighting the urge to salute once more before turning to his first client. “Shall we, then?”
“Now you remember to behave yourself, I’m a married lady,” she let out a laugh like a small rapid-fire machine gun as she forced a link of their arms and marched him out of the office to the elevator chatting the whole way.
“…so Marilyn told him not to put up with it and she took that son of a…” she pushed the button to call the elevator.
“…then Carl sent over – guess – I’ll tell ya: a muffin basket! Who in their right mind? I’ll tell ya who…”
The elevator arrived and more mindless chatter filled their descent into the firm’s lobby.
“…who should arrive at this point but our Carol!”
She paused for his input.
“No way?” he panicked and feigned sounding shocked. He was pleased to see a smile tug at her face and he saw that she had had work done at some point – definite traces of silicone in her cheeks.
“I know right?”
Another laugh like a machine gun in the street turned a few heads as they made their way to Mrs Lupone’s vehicle which turned out to be a Volkswagen Beetle – hot pink – and he piled into the passenger side as she unlocked it. She twittered more nonsense chatter during the drive and he made a lot of sounds of approval or surprise when required and occasionally offered the odd syllable of a word until the subject of her ramblings turned to him.
“So you’re quite the up and coming star, Mr Saldirgan’s been telling me all about you,” she mused at the wheel. “You sure you’re gonna be able to fill old Peterson’s shoes – wouldn’t be hard mind you, those little feet of his.”
Lesk hesitated, Harold Peterson had been the company’s crown jewel but rumour had it that he went crazy one day and rage-quit his job mid-contract. It had been pretty big in the media; actually, he remembered reading an article which suggested the man had even taken to permanently vacating the country and another which claimed he had simply vanished off the face of the Earth. Either way, nobody had heard from him and Lesk began to worry that he was indeed perhaps a little in over his head.
“You okay, kid?” Dolores asked when he didn’t answer.
“Sure,” he swallowed hard as they pulled over to the side of the road outside a quaint-looking, little beautician’s in a row of similar sized properties. He noticed as they got out of the car that, where Dolores’s salon held a large title (“Waxing Moon”), the rest of the shops were all sporting large “to let” or “for sale” signs above the doors. “You got no neighbours?”
“Every now and then someone opens up but they never seem to stay very long, I don’t know why, people are really strange round these parts,” she answered, a slender finger resting on her plastic face as she thought about it. “Come to think of it, nobody else lives on this entire block, wouldn’t you know?”
“Right,” Lesk replied, “and you don’t find that – I don’t know – strange at all?”
“I guess I never really thought about it,” she mused for a second longer before starting, as if waking from a daydream. “Come on, I’ll introduce you to the family.”
Once, more, she forced her arm through his and led him through the front door into what he imagined resembled a bomb-site. People were rushing around sweeping and clearing what could only be called debris. Someone, a teenage boy, was barking something at a girl – his younger sister perhaps – in the corner but he couldn’t make it out over the rabble. An elderly woman was behind a cash register saying lots of ‘what’s and plenty of ‘Hello’s into a telephone receiver.
“What happened in here…?” he questioned aloud, his jaw falling open.
“Yeah,” Dolores answered apprehensively, “about that…”
“Was there a fire or something?”
“Yes.” She answered quickly. “That’s why you’re here; we need you to adjust for all the losses…in the books.”
“Right…” he thought about it. Dolores had requested a fixed-term contract – adjusting for damages couldn’t be all he was here for could it? He shrugged it off and set his bag down by the door. “Show me to the books?”
“One second,” she answered holding a finger to his lips to hush him. “Shaddupaminnit!”
She screeched the last word, causing all the mayhem before them to come to an abrupt halt. He felt awkward all of a sudden with at least five, eerily identical pairs of eyes all on him. He gave a small wave in the hope that it would count as breaking the ice.
“This is Mr…”
“Krilo,” he filled in, earning him a smile from the leading lady.
“This is Mr Krilo. He will be our new Harold,” her hands found her shapely hips, “understand?”
The little girl smiled warmly, the teenager seemed indifferent and the pensioner didn’t seem to know whether or not she was still on the phone.
“Nice to meet you, Krilo,” a male voice sounded suddenly from the side not occupied by Dolores as the chaos resumed. “I’m Sunny.”
“Lesk, this is my Husband,” Dolores chimed in before rushing over to break up a fight that was now brewing between what he guessed was their children.
“Please, call me Lesk,” he said, turning to shake the man’s hand. He had a square face, a stout figure and a dark moustache to match his shoulder-length hair. He was wearing a mechanic’s overalls and didn’t look much like he belonged in a salon. “Lovely store you’ve got…”
“I’ll show you the accounts,” Sunny said, his grin stretching further at the remark as he led the way into the back. “One heck of scuffle last night.”
“Dolores said there was a fire?”
“Right, of course there was,” he paused in front of a slim table with a wooden dining chair tucked into it. “Here’s all the accounts from the last 6 months, see what you can make of ‘em.”
“Thanks,” Lesk replied, taking a seat and opening the laptop in front of him.
When the computer loaded and Sunny had returned to the load noises and questionable mess of the main floor, Lesk let out a sigh he’d been holding and got to work. Firstly he brought up the database which held the company’s assets and transactions when immediately something abnormal jumped out and smacked him across the face. Each month seemed to carry a massive expense and replacement of lost or damaged equipment.
“This can’t be right…” Lesk muttered as he searched through Peterson’s files for notes to the books.
He opened the folder and found a series of entries each detailing different transactions from the previous accounting period. The place seemed to have its fill of bad luck and generated virtually no profit yet every month, there was a huge payment into the business’s bank account. The source of this payment was not in Harold’s notes and Lesk picked up on deterioration of the standard of language with each consecutive note until he came to the last note, the one dated the day before he quit his job. It was a letter and it was addressed to him.
“To: My Successor,
Assuming the initiation hasn’t changed since my day, I can only assume you have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into. When I first started it was a simple case – I fainted, heaven knows how many times – but I got by. I cannot tell you what you are about to face – it’s not worth my soul – but with any luck you’ll already have some experience and it’ll take the edge off. I’ve been in this career 30 years and never have I
I cannot finish my time is short but the last advise I can offer you is run. run and don’t look back this place is a place of evil I urge you do not get yourself involve”
The letter stopped mid-sentence and Lesk’s heart hammered against his sternum. What was this?