Chapter 1: Lorelei
She had been Gage Warrenson’s girl. It was supposed to be Monday to Friday, nine to five, but eventually it had become so much more. It had gone into late nights and early mornings, eaten up her weekends. Somewhere, she wasn’t sure how, it had become weekend getaways and long conversations over dinner, cocktail hours and candlelight. Then she’d made the biggest mistake of her life, and fallen into bed with him. It had been hard to resist him before she’d slept with her boss, but afterwards? Everything had spiralled out of control.
She flashed back to before the incident. It wasn’t a fancy memory, just another Thursday... Which of course meant there were at least thirteen disasters that required her attention before noon. Lorelei had hurried, one didn't run in pencil skirts and three inch heels, down the hall of the Warrenson Talent Agency, a clipboard clutched to her chest. Some up and coming starlet was scheduled to meet with her boss that afternoon, but the little diva was already making demands about how she should be greeted and treated.
Once more her Blackberry buzzed and the harried personal assistant fought the urge to scream, instead rolling her eyes and ducking around the corner, away from the bustle of the main corridor, to check her messages. Seventeen new e-mails, all from the diva she was referring to as 'Miss Priss'. Thumbs flew over the tiny keyboard as she checked and filed all the requests, doing her best to accommodate the reasonable ones, and finding the right, polite phrasing to decline some of the more absurd demands.
An alarm went off on her PDA and Lorelei allowed herself the luxury of a barely audible curse. Gage was due in a morning meeting in less than twenty minutes, and she wasn't at all certain he had finished his phone conference. He might be the boss, but it was her responsibility to ensure that he was where he was needed, when he was needed, briefed and ready for everything. Nearly flying down the hall in her haste now, she made it to her desk in record time, depositing the one clipboard for a second one, quickly scanning the front page with her PDA for future reference before lightly knocking on the boss' door and letting herself in.
He was still on the phone, of course, so she gave him a quiet nod to let him know she needed him to finish up and crossed the office, placing the paperwork with the briefing for the shareholders meeting on the desk in front of him. She was stepping back to give him some space, when she noticed the scrap of notepaper where she'd been doodling her dislike of the starlet in a series of hateful little stick figure cartoons illustrating creative deaths featuring items from her requests. Flushing in embarrassment, Lorelei dived forward, snatching the scrap from among the official documents.
With a practiced movement, perfected over time, Gage's arm reached out and snatched the paper back from Lorelei as he finished up his phone conference. He had chuckled as he looked over her handiwork. “I can see how much you love our potential new client, Miss West.” He looked up at her and slipped the paper into the bottom left drawer of his desk before picking up the clipboard and glancing up at the clock.
Lorelei blushed, embarrassed to be caught involved in such unprofessional behaviour by her boss. Her eyes didn't leave that scrap of paper as he tucked it away in his desk. Why on Earth would he keep it? She bit her lip, hoping it wasn't going to come back and bite her in the arse later. If only she had known.
“How much time do we have? Give me the run down on everything I need to know while we walk.” He moved out from behind his desk and opened the door of his office, giving his assistant an expectant look. She had shaken herself out of her uncomfortable reverie as he gently reminded her of the job at hand. Stupid, stupid, stupid. She'd allowed herself to get distracted... maybe she should stop reading those titillating novels her best friend kept buying her. A best friend she had left behind. She cleared her face of everything, putting on her usual mask of pleasant efficiency as she exited the door, matching her pace to Gage's as they strode down the hall.
"Okay, Mister Warrenson. So the shareholders meeting is to place final votes on Mister Stanley's proposal to specialize the Agency. With the financial influx from the last couple divas..." She caught herself. Damnit, damnit, damnit. So much for her professionalism, that bloody princess really had her ruffled. "With the the financial influx from the last couple of singers Mister Standley has convinced almost half the board that it would be more fiscally prudent to specialize in the music industry. Wait... I have his exact words right here..." Lorelei flipped through the papers on her clipboard. "Here it is. He says, and I quote, 'It's stupid to carry dead weight like scribblers and daubers when the songbirds are the real cash cow..' End quote."
She made a disgusted face. "He may be crass, but he owns almost fifteen percent of the company himself, and he's managed to sway enough of the board that there's a real chance he could push this through." She shook her head, peering at her boss and venturing a small smile. "The shareholders are already gathering, but I've managed to arrange it so that the industrious Mister Stanley won't arrive for another half hour or so, giving you a chance to discuss matters with the remainder of the board before he gets there.
It had been tough to finagle everything into place, but she hoped it was enough for Gage to get a hand up on the pompous blowhard. One of the things that had attracted her to the Warrenson Agency in the first place was how inclusive it was, helping artists from all different genres.
She had thought she knew everything about the man and the company she worked for, but everything she knew was a smokescreen for what was really going on. His ‘Talent Agency’ had been scouting for more than the next big star, and it quickly became clear that the man she idolized wanted her soul, not her heart. He’d thought getting into her knickers would keep her quiet and compliant. Sure Lorelei could be a bit of a pushover, but this? It was too far. No matter how little he thought of her, she couldn’t look past his sins.
She had done the only thing she could stomach, and turned him, and all the evidence needed to convict him and his advisors, into the LAPD. The media storm had been a nightmare. Exposés ran in every paper, but somehow, they had kept their word and her name was left out of all the reports. Packing up what would fit in her modest little Hyundai, she had fled the glittering city full of starlets and kept driving until she had almost run out of money. Clear across the country, away from her shame and what she considered her greatest failure. Somewhere out there, some reporter hunting for a story might come across her name, and she wanted nothing to do with it.
Now she had to start over again, in a brand new city. She couldn’t even use her experience with Warrenson as a reference, didn’t even want it on her résumé. It was a glaring hole in an otherwise exemplary record, and she wondered how she would explain it away. Checking her appearance for the hundredth time in the motel mirror, she straightened her spine and squared her shoulders. Lorelei West wasn’t a meek little yes-man anymore. She was a strong, smart, professional woman who knew where she stood and what she wanted from life. She’d made a damn fine personal assistant, and if someone would just take a chance on her she could be one again.
Sighing she ran another handful of straightening cream through her dark hair, wielding the iron like a weapon. Of course, getting someone to take a chance on her was going to be the trick. New York City was massive, full of people just trying to get by, never mind get ahead. In a lot of ways it was more cutthroat than her hometown of Los Angeles, just with worse weather. At least it was still on a coast? She shook herself, unplugging the straightening iron and gathering the last few things she needed into her slim leather briefcase. She had a meeting with a local temp agency this morning, and though not the ideal way to make a fresh start on a new career, it would at least help get her started. She didn’t even know where to look, these days. Did people job hunt online, or did they still pound the pavement, résumé in hand? She supposed she was about to find out.
As she clambered onto a bus, she had to admit that one nice thing about New York was the layout. The grid was so tidy, and the numbering system, while a little dull, made finding her way around way less of a trial than it might have been otherwise. Sitting on the bus, she stared aimlessly out the dirty window. Today was the first day of the rest of her life, all she had to do was grab it.
Chapter 2: Harlow
Harlow straightened the frame holding her degree for the fifth time that morning, kicking the wall for good measure, which of course sent the frame tilting to the left again. Huffing, she blew on her bangs and said a few words Nookomis would have scolded her for using, even though she’d learned every one of them from her tough old grandmother. The thought made her grin. One day when she died, she’d see Nookomis again. She didn’t mourn her death, it wasn’t the way they did things in their culture, but celebrated her life by being the most stubborn cuss to ever crawl from the gutter and plant her flag on white man’s soil.
Though grandmother had been the first in her family to leave the reserves and strike out into the white man’s world to make her living, she’d still kept some of the old traditions strong. She taught Harlow the old language, and the stories. She’d loved the adventures of Nanabush and Gitche Manitou, and had nightmares for weeks about the Wendigo. Oh her mom had given grandmother crap for sharing the scary stories, and not once had Nookomis betrayed that it was Harlow who had asked to hear them in the first place. They were a team, right from the get go.
It was her grandmother who had first encouraged her to go into nursing. She’d said that Harlow sustained enough injuries, it was only right that she learn how to patch them back up. There wasn’t a weekend in the summer that she hadn’t broken, cut, or bruised some new part of her anatomy. She’d thought about being a doctor, but the money it cost was just too far out of reach on her parents’ small salaries, besides, when Nookomis had gone into care, it had been the nurses that had made her last days better. The nurses had been by her side for long hours, knew her name, her prescriptions, and her favourite television station. While the doctors came and went, the nurses stayed the same, and that’s what she wanted. She wanted to be someone who not only helped heal, but someone who cared.
Of course, she probably could have shown up for her job interview at the emergency trauma centre last week in something a little classier than an old pair of overalls and a plaid shirt with the sleeves cut off. The look on the old Italian doc’s face had been priceless. Of course, he probably wasn’t that old, but at 24 years old, anyone over 30 started to look like her dad. Maybe he was just tired, they definitely had looked understaffed, though these days most medical facilities were. Making the decision to spend the extra time to get not just her RN, but her RPN had been tough, but in the end she thought it was worthwhile. With her specialization in trauma care, and the knowledge to deal with psychiatric patients, she was everything an emergency centre needed and more.
Harlow knew it had cost the man something to overlook her appearance and hire her anyways, but she was confident that she would fly through the ‘trial period’ and come out on the other side glowing. She’d already finished a week there. A week coated in blood and other bodily fluids, and she’d never been happier, or prouder to be who she was. Of course, with New York City rent being what it was, she was going to need a roommate if she was going to keep Nookomis’ sweet, rent-controlled apartment. It might be cheaper than damn near anything in five boroughs, but her pay wasn’t that great, and it was starting to feel spooky rattling around in the old three bedroom split-level all on her own.
Making one of those split-second decisions that she knew full well almost always ended poorly, she logged on to Craigslist and posted an advert on the Looking For board. She could certainly have tried more conventional methods of rustling up roommates, but she was hardly a conventional person. She didn’t want to end up living with some boring accountant, she wanted to take some risks. Besides, she hardly knew anyone in the area anymore after going off to college to get her degree.
Roommate(s) Wanted: No couples need apply. Non-smoker preferred. No pets currently, but not adverse. Hella LGBTQIABCDEFG friendly and you best fucking be too. Rent controlled. Reply by e-mail only.
That should weed out the real jerks and the idiots that couldn’t read instructions. She figured she’d meet with the first dozen or so applicants that seemed to have their shit together, and if she didn’t turn up anyone that she could trust not to stab her in her sleep, she’d post something up at one of the community boards, maybe the library or the trade school. She pondered. The trade school could be good. Maybe find some tool-toting babe with long dark hair and the know-how to fix the wobbly kitchen table. As she made her way out to catch the bus for work, she allowed her mind to drift, really sinking into the daydream. The handywoman would be tall, at least half a foot taller than Harlow’s own measly 5’4. Maybe darker skinned, at the very least tanned. An outdoorswoman, who liked camping and hiking as much as she did.
Yeah, that sounded about right. Who said life had to be all work and no play? It had been ages since Harlow had hit the town. Maybe after work tonight she’d clean up and examine the local nightlife. Surely there was somewhere an old-fashioned dyke could cruise for some feminine company that would get the blood pumping. It wasn’t too much to ask for in a city this big, now was it? Sure setting broken bones was exciting, and on Wednesday they’d reattached a finger that had supposedly been accidentally amputated in a kitchen accident (Harlow pretended to herself that it had been severed in a mafia-related argument), but she wanted some non-work related action damnit.
Chapter 3: Lorelei
The temp agency was... interesting. Never having set foot in one before, Lorelei wasn't entirely certain what to expect, but whatever it was... this wasn't it. On one side of the room rough looking men and women in work boots and coveralls waited to see what kind of factories would call in looking for workers that day, on the other side college students in rumpled suits and primly dressed older ladies in starched blouses filled out paperwork regarding office positions. Looking back and forth between the two, she felt a twinge of worry. Perhaps all that time at Warrenson's had skewed her perspective on office-wear. As a supposed talent agency they had pushed fashion forward over office appropriate.
Smoothing down her skirt, suddenly wishing it was at least three inches longer, she approached the receptionist window. A minute passed. Two. The lady sitting there didn't even look up. Finally Lorelei cleared her throat. "Pardon me, I... "
"Take a number and fill out the form on the clipboard." A bit taken aback by the abrupt tone, and the fact that the receptionist still hadn't looked up, Lorelei did as she was told regardless, pulling a tab from the wheel by the window and lifting a clipboard off the rack. Sighing she examined the collection of flimsy looking plastic chairs, finding one that looked like it probably wouldn't collapse underneath her. The forms, at least, were pretty standard, and she filled them out quickly. The speed the tickets were addressed, however, left a lot to be desired. The receptionist apparently had far more important things to do besides her job.
Lorelei was at the end of her patience by the time her number was finally called. The woman looked up at her for the first time, and the former PA did her best not to shrivel under the clear disapproval on the shriveled old raisin's face. Normally she was a pretty passive person, though she had learned assertiveness working as a PA, and today, she let some of that old spunk show. "I assume you called my number because you have job options for me?" With a sniff she passed over the clipboard. The harridan behind the counter grumbled something that might have been in english, but definitely wasn't complimentary, and tip-tapped away at her keyboard, using only her index fingers, for another full two minutes. Lorelei reminded herself to breathe, not scream, repeatedly, until finally the old bag looked up.
"No temp placements, we do have interview slots for several positions that your... education suggests you are qualified for. Bank teller up the road, secretary at a private law firm, or there's an up-and-comer running for Mayor this year who needs a personal assistant on staff." The screeching sound of an old ribbon-printer shattered the relative silence of the waiting room, and then the receptionist ripped off the page and handed it to Lorelei. "I'll be giving the same options to anyone who comes in with similar qualifications."
Grating out a thank you Lorelei hits the pavement outside, the printout of interview slots and locations crumpled in her hand. Smoothing it out against the side of the building, she lets out a string of profanity, mostly casting aspersions at the parentage of the old bag inside. The interview slot for the PA position closed in forty-five minutes, and she was thirty-five minutes away by bus, if she got on the bus right now. Racing up the sidewalk she cursed her fashionable but not-quite-functional shoes, but luck was on her side and the bus driver actually held the bus for her.
On the ride over she straightened her hair, the page with the address, and her dress, all while mentally going over her résumé. It was good, even without the two years with Warrenson on there. She could bluff past the gap if necessary, she was sure of it. All she had to do was stay strong and believe in herself. She took a few deep breaths to calm and centre herself, though it wasn't nearly as effective in smog-clouded New York as it was back out in L.A. An unexpected wash of homesickness hit her like a tidal wave, and she spiraled for a moment, taking a few minutes just to be able to tread water on the tides of her own emotional upset.
She was so distracted she missed her stop, having to get off at the next one and pound pavement half a city block back the way she came. She let out another string of profanity as her shoe caught in a grate, damn near twisting her ankle, and when she arrived at the immaculate office building all the neatening up she had done on the bus was basically undone. The man at the desk, eyeing her dubiously, directed her to an office space on the 24th floor.
Riding the elevator up, Lorelei ignored the other passengers on the elevator as she desperately tried to get herself back into some semblance of order. She tugged her dress back into place, again cursing her bright idea to wear the lucky dress, it was clearly time to retire that fucking title, but looking at the reflective surface of the elevator panels she knew her hair was a write-off. Sighing she grabbed a pair of elastic bands stored for just that purpose in her briefcase, quickly bundling the windswept mess into a neat-ish chignon. It wasn't perfect, but it would have to do. Cramming the now horribly crumpled address sheet into her briefcase before closing it, she squared her shoulders and exited onto the floor.
The space was still pretty barren, very obviously newly rented. A few workmen were around, putting the finishing touches on windows and doors, and in one corner a stern figure was directing a pair of young men in hanging some kind of framed monstrosity, either a painting or a mirror, Lorelei couldn't determine which, and at the moment she clearly didn't care. She checked the time, five minutes to go. Shoulders back, chin high, she strode as quickly as she could to the indicated office and rapped sharply, concerned by the lack of a line outside. Had they already filled the position? Had they closed interviews early?
She hoped not, she really needed a job if she was ever going to move out of the motel.
Chapter 4: Harlow
It was about three seconds after she hit the ground at the trauma centre that she heard the first crisis case come in. Flying down the hall she shrugged into a clean set of scrubs and hit the sink to disinfect while one of the other nurses, her name was Sally or something like that, coming in for a clean set of scrubs herself, filled her in. "There was a big accident down on 37, we're taking in some of the overflow because the ambulances can't get through to the big hospitals."
The pair of them made disparaging sounds about the state of New York traffic, and motorists that wouldn't clear the path for EMTs as they rushed through their preparations. No reason not to be thorough just because they were in a hurry, lives depended on them making certain they never skipped a single step, start to finish. "Not gonna be an easy night then, whose on deck tonight?"
"Doctor Lucciano's primary tonight, but he's been in Critical Care all night with a bad case. The OR nurse called in sick for second shift, and I've been on Triage since halfway through first. The Charge Nurse is Linda tonight, she came in just before you got here, and she says that the University is sending in a pair of first year resident's to help out with the overflow, but other than that we're stuck."
Harlow furrowed her brow, looking at the tired nurse before her. She was new here, but with the doctor occupied, someone around this place had to make some decisions. "If you've got anything left, shift off Triage and move over to Charge, it will be a little less stress if you're flagging. Send Linda up to cover Triage, it shouldn't require anything she hasn't got the training for, at least not if we're dealing mainly with MVA's tonight. I'll head over to Critical and send the first shift OR nurse home, she's probably wiped and I doubt that Doc Lucciano will notice if his patient is so touchy. While you're on the Charge desk, check the schedule and call anyone who doesn't have to be in for first tomorrow to see if they can come insist, and I mean doctors too."
Though older than Harlow, Sally seemed glad to have someone spouting orders, she'd noticed that about some of the older RN's around here. "While you're at it, send one of the PSW's up to Critical as well, they can clean out OR2 before the next ambulance gets here." With a quick squeeze of one another's hands, the two ladies split up. Sally to accomplish the new list of duties, and Harlow to relieve whomever was stuck up in Emerg with Doctor Lucciano.
Young and hungry, she wanted to make a mark for herself at the small trauma centre, though she was vividly aware that she was stepping all over so many feet tonight. Well they'd either fire her for it, or be grateful that someone was stepping up. In through the doors of Critical, she stepped inside OR1 and moved up beside the nurse, a charming Asian lady with soft hands and a surprisingly loud voice. "Dana, you've put in your hours. A third shift in trauma will burn you out. If you won't go home, go take secondary in triage for a bit, but I think you need to go home and rest."
The woman, not too many years older than Harlow, frowned, then looked at the clock. "You're right. I'll just let the doctor..."
"Don't worry about the Doctor," Harlow interrupted, ushering Dana out towards the door. "I've got him handled. You just look after you for right now." Turning to see the doctor and anesthesiologist hovering over a distressingly small form, the young RPN moved to the side, restocking the crash cart and tidying up as she went. Though she might be an agent of chaos in her life outside the surgery, in here she was the opposite. Wherever she moved order and cleanliness spread, and she amused herself with the knowledge that the doctor clearly hadn't even noticed the nurses had been changed yet.
Smiling in Critical Care might seem morbid, but she had always been known for gallows humour, even before she entered the medical field. The anesthesiologist finished what they were doing and stepped away. "That's as stable as I can get them, I'll see if I can find that fucking surgeon. Thanks for your help, Doc. Good luck with this one." Looking up, the man clearly noted the changing in the support staff and walked over to Harlow, voice low. "Looks like there's a herniated disc in the lumbar vertebrae, and possible internal bleeding based on abdominal discolouration. We haven't been able to get hold of the regular surgeon, so it's looking like the Doc might have to handle this one on his own. The patient is already prepped. Juvenile male, early teens, African American. Looks like he was on the sidewalk when the big crash went down. Fucking collateral damage, car hit a hot dog stand and the whole thing ran over him."
Harlow winced, then nodded. Though the injury seemed pretty straight-forward, you always had to be careful when working around the spinal column. Even if the boy wasn't paralyzed yet, just the slightest miscalculation on the surgeon's part could leave him that way. She whispered goodnight to the anesthesiologist and moved up beside the doctor, handing him first an absorbent square for his dripping forehead, and then the scalpel when he asked for it. She had to admire his devotion to his patient, through her whole exchange with the other man, and even now, he hadn't looked up once, his entire focus on the young life at his hands. She stepped aside to give him more room, adjusting the light before taking her position at the instrument tray. She had every confidence that Doctor Lucciano would fix this boy, and she would support him every step of the way.
Chapter 5: Lorelei
The door opened as she was still knocking, revealing a young, dark-haired woman talking to an older man with graying hair. Most people know by now, through his many advertisements all over the city,that he is Lorenzo Saint. The woman hugged Lorenzo as they finished with their conversation. "An' don't forget, Papa, dinner on Friday. Get dere by seven... six-thirty, maybe six..." The woman laughed, and he joined in, chuckling while patting her shoulder.
"Don' worry, Corinna, I'll be dere at six with sparklin' cider an' bells on." Lorenzo grinned, kissing Corinna on the cheek. "Tell that son o'mine to be ready to lose another game of poker. Gotta get ready for our games wit' Chiara."
They laughed again, and finally noticed the woman in the doorway. Both smiled warmly at her, Corinna offering her hand before Lorenzo can. "Oh! Are you here for da PA position? Papa, hire her. I can tell, she's perfect. I'm Corinna Saint, his daughter-in-law."
"Lorenzo Saint, nice to meet ya, Miss." He shook her hand as well. Corinna patted her back kindly as she slips past a reeling Lorelei and through the doorway.
"Good luck in dere, but Papa, remember what I said!" Corinna's giggle faded when she exited the office, and they turn into orders to the moving men as she headed back out into the main space.
"Please, Miss, come inside." Lorenzo waved her into the office, closing the door and gesturing for her to take a seat across from his desk. His office was decorated modestly, family photos on the wall and his desk. Some pictures are old, grainy, and black and white, others showed him young and just married. The most recent photos were of him at his son's wedding, with the happy bride and groom. Books line the shelves on one wall, old classics that everyone has, Italian history texts, and then mystery-thrillers from a few well-known authors. He had simple paintings, nature scenes, Italian landscapes, and one well-made family portrait of Lorenzo, his wife, two sons, and a daughter. The portrait is old, as the kids are all young, but it's easy to see that it's a prized possession.
Once he was given her resume, he sat down to look it over, and they were interrupted by a knock on the door. Corinna poked her head inside, holding a tray with coffees, water, and a few pastries.
"Just in case anyone was hungry or needed some coffee." She grinned, setting the tray down on a side table. "I'll leave ya alone again." She winked at Lorelei as she went by, whispering a soft 'good luck' before she exited the office again.
Lorenzo chuckled, "As you can see, we're living up to our Italian roots, always forcin' food on people. Corinna reminds me of my mother, she was always tryin' to make us eat more." He looked through the resume, reading it over slowly, and sipping his coffee. After a moment, he closed the file and leans back in his chair. "You got great credentials, an' you have all of the experience I could ever ask for. I'm gonna be honest with you, Miss West, I know I'm fighting a hard uphill battle to become Mayor. I'm not a politician. I'm a businessman. An' I know when that's said it reminds people of the orange troll in the White House, but I'm nothin' like him. I wanna use my knowledge to bring money an' dignity back to the poorest boroughs in dis city. I was born in New York City an' I'm gonna die here. I've raised my family here. I know to most people, dis all sounds like the bullshit on my ads an' interviews, but it's from the heart. I have done my work. I have done my research. I have plenty of policies I'm ready to put into place as soon as I win, to get dis city back on track. All I need is someone to help keep me organized, to keep everything in place, set up meetings and do what you do. I've looked over your qualifications and you're certainly more than qualified, but I have a few questions."
He smiled, reaching for his coffee cup again. "Why would you like to work for me and my campaign? What are your specialties? And if we win, are you prepared to deal with the chaos that is being the PA to the Mayor of New York City?" He laughed, his eyes taking on a jovial light.
The Saints were certainly a whirlwind, between Corinna's pleasant encouragements and Lorenzo's business-like demeanor, Lorelei was already feeling a little out of her depth. That didn't matter though. What she needed was a job, and she knew what she was good at. Being a Personal Assistant didn't suit everyone, but before the disaster with Gage she had been damned good at her job, and she had enjoyed being that agent of order amidst the chaos that the Agency had been. Maybe if she had been worse at it she wouldn't have gone down so hard along with the rest of them.
She gave her best, most confident smile to the older man, brushing an errant strand of hair out of her face. "To be perfectly honest, sir, I'm new to New York City. As you can see by my résumé most of my experience is out in Los Angeles, particularly in Hollywood, and I only recently arrived in the Big Apple. Though I am not currently up to speed on your campaign, I can assure you that by eight o'clock tonight I'll know everything there is to know about your platforms, advertisements and general reception. I was suggested several options at the placement agency I registered with, and the opportunity working for you posed was simply the most in line with my job preferences."
Maybe it wasn't the most flattering way to phrase things, but Lorelei was bound and determined to start this job off on the right foot. No lies. No falseness. If Lorenzo Saint didn't appreciate that, well there were other jobs out there. "I cut my teeth in a very high stress environment, and I thrive under those conditions. I imagine a political campaign will expose you to many of the same personality types I encountered on the west coast, and I assure you that I am exceedingly well versed in dealing with difficult personalities. I specialize in event coordination, including guest list research, in calendar organization and adjustments, and various personal assistance positions meant to make your job easier. In short, sir, I can tell you which of your opponents wants to talk about golf and which just wants to discuss their new grandson, all while rescheduling your morning meetings based on the numbers of champagne toasts and having your wife's dry cleaning delivered so that you don't have to worry about it."
She took a deep breath, tugging down the edge of her skirt which had apparently hiked itself up while she made her impassioned sales pitch. She hadn't pled her case like this since she took the stand against Warrenson and the horrors they committed. It was nerve-wracking. "When you win, and sir with me behind you I believe that it is a matter of when not if, I can guarantee that serving as a Mayoral PA will be hardly any strain at all compared to my previous positions. I'm not here for the politics, sir, I am simply here to make your life simpler and more stream-lined, and I don't have a doubt that I can achieve that if you're willing to give me a chance."
Feeling confident in what she had said, she had been concise and accurate, without bragging, at least she felt that she had, she leaned forward and picked up the smallest pastry on the tray. Somewhere in the back of her head the size zero Barbie dolls from back in Los Angeles scoffed, wondering if she should really take in that many carbs when she was already shopping in the dreaded plus size section, but she dismissed them with a mental wave of her hand. She was in New York now, and the extra padding she carried around would help keep her warm. Besides, she wasn't looking to attract anyone, not after the disaster that was her one and only attempt to enter the dating pool.
One of the best parts of working as a personal assistant was that it rarely left time for a personal life, so she didn't have to make excuses as to why she wasn't dating or socializing. She didn't have the time or energy to make friends or date when she was throwing her whole life into a job. She was relieved that Lorenzo Saint was older, with an established family that he clearly cared deeply about. A family man wasn't the type that would expect the kind of after-hours attention that Gage had, the kind of attention that had gotten her embroiled so deeply in his life that she had almost ruined her own.
Taking a bite of the pastry, she closed her eyes for a moment to enjoy the crisp sweetness. Whether she got the job or not, she was going to ask for the name of the bakery that they had picked these treats up from. She had never had anything so decadent in her entire life. It was like a little piece of heaven melting on her tongue. Swallowing she placed the pastry down on a napkin, trying to put her professional face back on as she waited to hear Lorenzo's verdict. She was expecting the traditional 'nice to meet you, we will let you know either way by the end of the week', so she marshaled her best pleasant face in readiness.
Chapter 6: Bobbi-Jo
The road stretched ahead of her, and all it held was promise. She'd kissed Pa's wrinkly cheek goodbye and loaded up her old '76 Chevy K10. It wasn't quite a classic, and her dream truck was a '56, but it was reliable, and wide enough that even Pa didn't worry about her being on the road in it. Give her a vehicle when the frames were still made of real steel, and she was a happy girl. Almost as happy as she was about the cheque Pa had slid into her overalls pocket when he hugged her goodbye. He called it a graduation gift, but there were tears in his eyes, as if he thought he'd never see her again.
Silly old man. She might be going off to the big city to start her career, but she'd come home plenty to visit. She just didn't want to start out working some run down old garage in a little nothing town. She wanted excitement and action. Maybe that was Mama's influence, Lord above knew the woman was attracted to the cities like a pig to mud, but Bobbi-Jo thought it was something else. She'd spent her whole life living in small towns, and she wanted something new. A new challenge. She wanted to prove that she could succeed, not just to her Pa, but to herself.
Of course, getting a garage set up from scratch was a lot more work than she had anticipated. It took three months, and almost all of that massive cheque Pa had written her, but eventually she got everything up and running. The Classic Touch had a shiny new sign, and some middle-of-the-rack equipment to get her going. The lift had taken every last penny of her savings, but it was worth it. She could do repairs, was good at them, but her dream was to work in classic car restoration. She'd buy a few scrap projects once the money started coming in, but for now, she kept everything looking classy and clean, though she was sure that wouldn't last long.
The trick was, how to get customers into a brand new establishment, especially one run by a woman? Though equality had made leaps and bounds, there were still a few areas where the genders weren't on even ground. She'd been one of the only women in her class at the college, though she had made great friends out of the other two girls who had gone through it with her, and there were even fewer shops owned by women, never mind run solo by them. That didn't stop her, and she had her permits filed and everything in order for her grand opening.
Taking a chance she ran a series of advertisements in the paper, shocked by the price tag they demanded. She was running a grand opening day, showcasing her own '76, and the shell of a '51 Coupe she'd gotten for a song and was starting the restoration process on. She had a good display of paints and parts, as well as walk-away items like oil, spark plugs, and wipers for folks that were looking to do the little things themselves. She'd made friends with the fella who ran a food truck round near her new apartment, and he'd agreed to cater the event at cost, because he was clearly an angel sent from Heaven.
Everything was ready for the big day, she had her hair curled and her best pair of overalls ironed, with a cute little plaid shirt underneath. She had the '76 up on the lift so folks could see the work she'd done on the undercarriage, and coupons for five dollars off an oil change and tire rotation. Bustling about, she nearly jumped out of her skin when Fernando touched her elbow, drawing her to a stop. "Don't you worry now, Miss Bobbi-Jo. You've done everything up real nice here, and the folks will be pleased as punch to have a good place to take their cars. I can already promise every food truck in a twenty block radius will be coming to you alone for repairs from now on."
Impulsively she threw her arms around the old man's shoulders, squeezing tightly before letting him go, an embarrassed blush staining her cheeks a bright pink. "Oh thank you, Fernando. I'm just all aflutter. I just wish Pa could be here for this, but I know he has enough to do with his own business and..." Fernando grinned widely, pointing over her shoulder. She turned to see Pa standing in the doorway, hat in hand and a grin as wide as the Mississippi splitting his face.
"Well Barbara-Joanne, look at this place. It's nice to see you put your money to work. Come here girl, give your old man a hug." With a squeal of delight she raced across the concrete floor, flinging herself into her Pa's arms and hugging him for all that she was worth. When she let go there were tears in her eyes, but she wiped her face on her sleeve and punched her Pa in the shoulder.
"I've been Bobbi-Jo since I was seven years old, Pa, and I'll be Bobbi-Jo until I die if I have my own way." She raised a hand, stopping him from speaking. "I don't care if it makes me sound like a hick, because my neck is as red as a Texas sunset and I am not ashamed." She bussed his cheek, turning to look at the clock. "Go get some tacos from Fernando, they are the best I've had since I hit the city. I've gotta go unlock the front doors."
She crossed her fingers and whispered a little prayer, hoping against hope that she'd actually get a few customers in today. She didn't need to be a roaring success, but if no one showed up, especially with Pa here, she might just tuck her tail and ship herself home in shame. She shook herself, scolding her thoughts from their negative turn. No time for bad thoughts, with a wide smile she unlocked the doors and threw them open, watching with delight as they caught and held where they were supposed to. That, at least, was working.
Chapter 7: Harlow
"Hold on..." The doctor muttered to himself on and off as he worked, trying to stop the internal bleeding, clearly understanding how precarious the whole injury was. One wrong move and even if the boy was saved, he could be paralyzed. In this borough that would be like dying. It wasn't a rough neighbourhood, but it wasn't exactly what Harlow would call accessible either. The Doctor's focus was intense, and Harlow did her best to be unobtrusive as she supported him. He got the internal bleeding to stop, and sometime near the end the actual surgeon managed to show up in time to help clean up and stitch the boy back together. The two conferred and then the surgeon went off to call a specialist in for the spinal injury.
Stripping off the surgical gear, Carmine gestured to Harlow who followed suit, and then followed him out to the nurses station. He took a bottle of water for himself and handed her one as well. "We only have a minute before the next round starts, so drink fast." He looked around, clearly noticing the changes she had made earlier, and then raised an eyebrow while taking a long drink from the bottle. "I assume the changes and pockets of order around here are thanks to you. I've been in there for hours. Thank you, Harlow. Honestly, we were drowning in here. Cool heads needed to prevail. Good job. As you can see, it's the Wild West tonight. There was a gang shooting on the outskirts of the borough, but they were sent here because we're closer and then the accident happened. Be ready to most likely work a double."
A double? Well there went her plans to hunt down a towering Mrs. Fix-It to play with at the club tonight. She didn't mind though, that was one of the reasons she was here. To help people. To make a difference. "I want you with me for the rest of the night. We made a great team in there. You know your shit and I like that." He took another swig from the water bottle, and she finally opened hers and followed suit. "Alright, let's get back to work. I see another ambulance coming in with the last of the accident victims."
The EMT runs down the basics: Husband, wife, six-year-old kid, all in a minivan. The kid made it out with minimal injuries, but mom and dad weren't so lucky. Dad is worse, a large shard of windshield glass impaling his chest. Carmine took a deep breath, looked at Harlow, and nodded. "Alright. Let's get to this."
They quickly cleaned up, getting gloves on, and getting to work. Calling out orders for blood bags, Carmine started what was going to be a long process, and with as much blood as this man was losing, Harlow could tell it was going to be another hard fight to save his life. They had to go in blind, not knowing what else was affected by the crash, but first, they needed to stop the blood loss and attempt to remove the glass.
Being an OR nurse wasn't what she had specialized in, but she damn well knew how to do it quick and effective. The great thing about a small scale hospital/clinic like this one was that there were a million roles, and everyone got to try them on. She was almost flattered that Doc Luciano had not only noticed how hard she was working, but had singled her out to be his second for the rest of the evening. Thoughts like that didn't have a place in an active surgery though, so she shook her head, letting all the little worries and thoughts free, and focused on the job at hand.
Setting up the crash cart in the corner while the Doc did his first assessment, she kept one eye on the doctor, waiting for the slightest sign that he needed her assistance. Once he'd assessed the patient and switched out his gloves, she fell in beside him with the surgical tray, handing him tools, wiping the sweat from his brow... It was like an old episode of General Hospital or something, though she wouldn't be crawling into his bed at the end of it. It wasn't that he wasn't attractive, for an older dude, he just didn't have the right equipment to interest a gal like her.
His hands were so steady, and she held the glass still as he carefully pried the sheared flesh from the incision point. With her other hand she kept switching out sponges, soaking up the excess blood. Her own forehead was starting to drip with sweat from the intensity of the moment, but that didn't matter. She wasn't finding glass in a mess of raw and red exposed muscle. Every centimetre that was cleared of glass got a dozen tiny, perfect sutures, until finally he was clear. The largest shard sat on the edge of the surgical cart, the thousand or so tiny fragments, some no wider than a strand of hair, piled into a mound in a kidney shaped bowl.
Harlow ran her arm over her forehead, wrinkling her nose at the damp streak left behind. Gross. As the doctor murmured a few things to the anesthesiologist, she backed up and stuck her head out of the OR, flagging down the nurse from earlier. "My locker is the last one on the left, 209, the key for the lock is at the charge nurse desk. Can you dig out my cash and run down to the canteen to pick up two turkey sandwiches and a couple of Gatorades? If I'm reading the situation right Doc Luciano in there is gonna try to power through another shift on nothing but grit and water, and I do not want to have to strap him to a gurney while we get Sally to phone his wife."
"The boy has been moved to a shared room, and mom will be out of Surgery 2 in about fifteen minutes. You can let dad know that his family are going to be a-ok. Don't worry about the sandwiches, you can get me back next time."
"It's a date." Sharing a laugh, she felt refreshed and ducked back into the OR, keeping her face innocent as she switched out her protective gear for a new set and moved back to the patient, cleaning up around him and the doctor, quietly talking as the man started to come back around. "There you go, big man. The doc got you all taken care of. Your little boy is just fine, watching some cartoon that will rot his brain out no doubt, kicking back in bed and waiting for you and your wife to join him. She's doing all right too, the nurse said she'll be out of surgery by the time we wheel you down to post-op."
Brushing a cool, damp cloth across the man's forehead she gave him her most charming smile and then moved to dump her equipment in the rubbish bin, sealing it off and moving to the wash-up stand. She darted a look around to see if the doctor was done yet, and ready to move on to the next task. She had to make sure he didn't slip away on her. The biggest part of her job was definitely taking care of the patients, but keeping an eye out for the doctors was a privilege. They were here saving lives, and they were so often like a bunch of dumb puppies, too dumb to lie down when they were tired or eat when they were hungry.
"Come on, doc. Time to scrub off and hit the ER again. I'm sure there's a new disaster for us to sink our teeth into. That last one was almost too easy."
Chapter 8: Lorelei
It took a moment for the man to speak, as if he was truly weighing her words, or maybe just giving her time to chew and swallow. "I like that you're honest wit' me. Most people would be so busy tryin' to just get the job, they wouldn't be concerned wit' stickin' to the truth. I respect that. Besides, your resume is very impressive. You're confident. You're smart. You know what it's like to deal with a chaotic city and the insanity that comes with agendas and competing personalities. If you've got my back, I've got yours. We're operating a clean campaign, and while I'm not pulling punches, I'm not looking to get knocked out because I don't have people keeping me ahead of the curve."
He reached for his pastry, taking a bite before smiling and wiping his face with a napkin. "Honestly, I was planning on hiring you anyway, I can't tell Corinna no. She's got a great intuition 'bout people. She can look at a person an' jus' know if they're good or not an' if she says hire you, who am I to refuse her?" He laughed, eyes twinkling with happiness. She could tell from where she sat that he loved his family, and that was a comfort. "When she was a kid she always told my son he'd marry her an' well... he did." He set the pastry down, and leaned forward on the desk, "I can pay you well an' if you don't have an apartment, I can easily help get you settled. I'm looking for the best an' the brightest. I wanna do the best I can in this campaign an' for this city. I have a feeling if I hire you, I'll be taking a big step in the right direction. I haven't interviewed anyone with qualifications like yours."
He closed the file with her resume, and then looked at her curiously. "Are you Catholic? Not a big deal if you're not, I only ask because the church is a staple of the community and we do a lot of events there. Clothing drives, food drives, soup kitchens, other charity events. It's a place we'll be attending for numerous occasions, so as long as you're okay with going there, I don't think we'll have any problems. Also, if you are Catholic, you are more than welcome to join me and my family for Sunday mass. You're also welcome to join us for Sunday dinner."
He rose, moving around the desk as he extended his hand to her. "I'd like to formally offer you the job position. Taking the job means becoming part of the family in a way. We're Italian, we can't help but wanna bring you in, drink some wine, cook for you, and welcome you to the greatest city in the world. So, whattya say, Miss West, ready to get to work?"
Once more Lorenzo Saint had left her head spinning a bit. Working where she had she'd gotten accustomed to fast talking agents and hype men, but they had nothing on the Italian offering her his hand. She debated whether it was ruder to keep him hanging while she answered all the questions he'd fired off at her, or to make statements that might change his mind after she shook. Of course, shaking his hand basically sealed the deal, so maybe in a situation like hers it was best to get the job and then share the bad news. With a smile she stood and shook his hand.
"To be honest, Mr. Saint, I am currently looking for an apartment, there doesn't seem to be too many vacancies out there right now, and I'd rather not have a room mate with the hours I plan to keep aiding with your campaign." Then there was the big one. Are you Catholic? She knew what it was like for old Italian families and their church, so she did her best to sound polite. "As for the church, I have no problem helping out at events there, but I can't say I'm religious at all. My parents were Baptists but only in name, and I don't think I've been inside a church since I was in diapers."
She frowned, pulling her tablet out of her purse, fingers flying across the screen as she started taking notes. "You do have to be careful though, Catholicism can be seen as oppressive and close minded to the general public. I'll have to see about booking you some speaking engagements at the local Mosque and Synagogue once I've got your current schedule downloaded. A family man with an active church life and an open mind about other's beliefs always makes a good impression." She looked up, eyes twinkling with good humour. "You are, of course, open minded aren't you, Mr. Saint?"
She was testing the waters, seeing if he could handle a little teasing or if he was going to be serious. She preferred to go through her days with a touch of humour, but she could match him if he preferred a no-nonsense approach. She could already tell that he was the open-minded type. Very few gentlemen his age would admit to letting his daughter-in-law boss him around after all. She called up a few more pages, making some more notes. "You'll also want to do some outreach programs with the local youth and LGBT centers. There's a lot of voters out there that never get noticed by the campaigners who cater mostly to their own demographic. Reaching a hand out to them will really help."
A moment of concern showed on her face, before she laughed, swiping something into the recycling bin on her screen. "Of course, having me on staff will gave you access to demographics that Catholic, Italian candidates have historically not reached out to." She tucked the tablet away, nodding once. "If that all works for you, I think we can rub along just fine, Mr. Saint. If you just direct me to your administrative assistant I can start downloading your calendar of events and get the rest of the key information from her, I'm sure you have other things to do today than to get your personal assistant caught up on the basics of their job."
She flashed him a bright smile. "I can assure you, Mr. Saint, you won't regret hiring me on. I'll work tirelessly for you, and I know that with the right attitude we can win you this election." She was getting excited. She'd been into politics once, when she was younger. In high school she'd been part of the student government program, and she'd done pretty well if she did say so herself. This was just the same thing but on a larger scale, with more spinning plates in the air to keep track of. That was right up her alley, and the kind of thing she was here to experiment with.
Of course, while she'd been swiping there had been that one interview with his opponent where it claimed that her new employer had ties to mobsters and old school mafia. She'd have to look into that later and figure out how to politely discuss handling it with Mr. Saint. Unless it was true, of course, in which case there was a good chance she had jumped out of the fires of the Los Angeles scandal into the frying pan of New York organized crime. She really, really hoped that wasn't true. Surely a girl couldn't get that unlucky twice in a row... right?