1: The Warning
**Sebastian Eames pulled off his overcoat and hung it on the rack outside his office. He looked around at the decorations going up and sighed. “Halloween,” he muttered.
Alexis, his personal assistant, rose from her desk and followed him into his office. “Yes, Sir,” she said. “We stopped having our Halloween parties after the split. The employees from Janak still really love the party.”
“I know, Alexis; it’ll be good for morale,” he said to her. “Everyone’s but mine, anyway. You know how I feel about Halloween these days.” Instead of going around to his desk, he leaned against it. Alexis had been with him for years, and had helped E&J Investing be successful even during the past five rocky years, after he and his partner Marty Janak had split the company.
“Yes, yes,” she said, “‘Bah! Humbug! Halloween bad.”
He chuckled. “Yes. And, honestly, buying back Marty’s half of the business brings a lot of those bad memories back. Memories of what they did.”
Alexis put her hand on his shoulder. “I know, Sir. But it’s been five years, and you’ve not moved on. I think it’s time. You should come to the party, make nice and have a good time. Maybe meet someone and take them home.”
Sebastian rubbed his eyes for a bit, and shook his head. He had a slight grin as he replied, “Alexis, I’m glad you always look out for me, and for the business.”
“Speaking of which,” she said, dropping a small pharmacy bag on his desk. “I picked up your medicine at the pharmacy this morning; still taking the sleeping pill I see.”
“I’ve been having trouble sleeping ever since Marty died,” he said. “We never settled things between us, not that I wanted to while he was alive.”
“And now it’s too late,” she said.
“Yes,” Sebastian said. He settled in at his desk and Alexis took the large chair opposite, propping her notebook on her knee. He knit his fingers and propped his head on them. “The best I can do for him now is heal our businesses, bringing them back together. I also know that with our history this Halloween party is a good way to do it. If you tell me I need to be there, I will. But otherwise, I… really don’t want to.”
“You’d be okay with that?”
“I was never as mad at him as I was at Vicky. He never hurt our business like she hurt our marriage. And what we need to do now is deal with the business,” he said. “And that — not my love life — is what we need to focus on.”
“Yes, Sir,” she said. “I think this is another of those things you can pass on if you want. I’ll be there, and as you well know, I know the business.”
He laughed at that, “Yes, and I know there’d be no business at all without you Alexis.”
“Not just me, Sir,” she said, and opened up her day planner. “In light of that, you have a meeting at 11 with James and his counterpart Dorcas Hamilton.”
“She worked for us before, right?”
“Yes,” Alexis said. “And she went to Janak, Inc when things split. Marty promoted her to manager his brokers.”
“Right,” he said. “And I hired James for that after the split; they’re doing the same job.”
If he remembered correctly, Alexis and Dorcas had been friends. The business used to be a lot smaller, and then after what Marty and Vicky did, it split in two, and both halves grew. When Marty died earlier this year, he’d left a provision in the will that his company could be bought slightly below market value by Eames, and merged back in. As part of the deal he had to keep most of the employees, and their benefits. Perhaps the two businesses had grown enough he needed more than one manager, or one could run a special team.
“That’s correct,” she said. “They’re both good people; her employee file is on your desktop.”
“Okay, anything else?”
“‘Get to know you’ lunch, with Paula Sexton,” she said. “She’s one of the new IT people from Janak.”
“Okay, any thoughts about her?” he asked.
“Her file is also on your desktop.She seems competent and young, also: beautiful. And single.”
“Oh, I’m sure I didn’t need to know that,” he said.
“Of course, Sir,” she said. “That’s your day. As you requested, your afternoon is free.”
“Thanks, Alexis. Let me know if anything changes.”
Sebastian spent the morning reading through the employee files. Alexis had everything organized, collated with commentary. She’d not always been like that, but in the past five years she’d taken on more and more of the running of Eames Investments.
Both Dorcas and James had done very well in their respective posts. They were both competent people who E&J couldn’t afford to lose. The question was, how to keep them both without losing one of them in the process? Paula’s file was equally compelling — Sebastian had to admit that Marty was good at hiring and keeping quality people. A lot of what was on her resume he wasn’t familiar with, but it sounded good, and her hiring manager spoke highly of her.
His computer beeped, warning him of email, so he opened it up. Alexis screened most of his email, so he tried to look at what made it through as quickly as possible. When he looked, though, it wasn’t that sort of thing. It was titled “WARNING!!!!” and the sender was none other than Marty Janak.
Against his better judgment, Sebastian opened the email.
“Hi Seb,” it read. “This is a quick note from beyond the grave. I get this one message so you avoid my fate. Be good to the people around you, and loosen up and don’t hang on to the past so much. You already know I’m sorry for what happened with Vicky, but let me say it again.
“But that’s not the important part. The important part is: you’ll be visited by three witches tonight, each more tempting than the last. They’re here to let you enjoy life, and remember how much we love the holidays, starting with Halloween.
“Remember, the secret to life is to enjoy yourself and take care of those around you,
“Marty Janak, deceased.”
Sebastian let out a huge sigh. Whoever had written the message really knew Marty, and his style, but was playing a horrible prank. Still, the people in IT knew how to figure these things out, in fact, Paula had this sort of thing on her resume. Sebastian looked over her file, and dialed her extension.
“IT, this is Paula.”
“Hi Paula, this is Sebastian Eames.”
“Hello, Mr Eames!” she said. “I’m looking forward to our lunch today.”
“Well, this isn’t about that, actually,” he said. “I’ve got a bit of an email problem.”
“That’s what we’re here for,” she said. “What’s the problem?”
“Well, I got a fake email that looks like it came from Marty Janak. Is that possible?”
“A fake email? Sure. An actual email? No way, we purged the Exchange Server before we moved to the new offices. Backed everything up of course, but no, err, ghost emails. No pun intended .”
He chuckled. “It’s okay.”
“I tell you what,” she said. “Why don’t you forward it to me, with the headers.”
She walked him through the process, and he sent the mail on to her. “There you go,” he said.
“Got it, looking at it now.” She paused. “Weird.”
“Well… it’s routed through our old exchange server which we shut down. And it’s coming from a really strange IP.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m just looking now,” she said. Her voice sounded frantic. “You know—” she started..
“Look, this email is doing some stuff that should technically be impossible. Do you mind if I spend some time figuring it out? I do have a hot lunch date, but I think he’d let me cancel if you think this is important enough.”
Sebastian looked at the email one more time. He remembered how he’d walked in on Marty and Vicky at the Halloween party while they were having sex in Marty’s office. He’d been carrying that bit of anger with him for a long time, and it still ate at him. He was already having trouble sleeping, and with the holiday and the party, the email was just too much for him.
“Actually, Paula, I think that’s a good idea. After reading it, I’m not really up to lunch today. Let’s reschedule for Monday, okay? I think I’m going to get out of here today.”
“Well, you’re the boss,” she said. “I’ll send an email with my findings okay?”
“You do that, and thanks Paula.”
He hung up the phone, put his meds in his briefcase, and grabbed his coat. He stepped out of his office. “Alexis,” he said. “Cancel my appointments for today, I’m going home.”
“Are you alright, Sir?”
“No,” he said. “I just need some downtime. I think I may have some vacation coming up.”
“Five years worth,” she said. “I assume that means you won’t be at the party tonight?”
“I think not,” he said. “I’m planning on sleeping the day away. I’ll see you on Monday.”
He brushed past James and Dorcas as they were coming up to his office. Married life had changed Dorcas, for the better he thought, she was rounder and had a bit of a glow about her. He apologized to them both and had them reschedule with Alexis. He had other things on his mind for now, but mostly his old dead friend, and email prankster that knew him too well.**
A Halloween Carol will continue tomorrow with The First Visitation