The Shakedown

Photo by Ahmed Adly on

Cora stared at her typewriter, she imagined herself banging her head into it a few times. She was utterly bored. The work flow was slow after the holidays. Cora expected as much, since it happened last year and the year before that, for as long as she could remember. She had hoped that her co-workers would hit the ground running, yet it seemed that their minds were full of Christmas ham, sparkling wine, awful fruit cakes, political arguments they had with relatives they barely knew, and the decision to either keep a present or regift it.
Cora would give anything to have some busy work sent her way. Her imagination wandered and she thought about giving one of her legs to her boss in exchange for paperwork. She stifled a giggle and peered towards her co-workers. Bleak, gray desks lined in rows from the back of the office to the front. Cora was somewhere in the middle.
Her desk neighbor, Debbie, was polishing her nails, every few seconds she would look up to see if their boss was coming. Debbie wore her hair in thick, tight curls set up high with AquaNet. Her wardrobe consisted of only shirt dresses and tights. The only time Cora saw her wear something different was when they had a girls’ night out, Debbie wore the dress shirt without tights. Cora on the other hand wore her hair in a bob and had on a stuffy matching suit of a dark blue hue. Debbie noticed Cora looking.
“Cora, what do you think of this color?” Debbie asked flashing her fingers painted in electric orange.
“It’s nice.”
“It’s so rad. You think Steve will like it?”
“I don’t think he would care, as long as you wear your sexy outfits.”
Cora glanced at her boss’s door. The blinds were drawn, but she could see his shadow pacing back and forth.
“Mr. Lievitz has been on the phone all day. I heard that something is up.” Debbie said.
“What happened?” Cora asked, quickly.
“Well, you know I’m also dating Bryan from the mail room? He heard from Jake, who works in Finance, which he heard it from his boss, Mr. Longiano, that Mr. Lievitz owes the mafia money.”
Cora’s eyes widen.
“Yeah, he owes them lots of money. He’s probably talking to them right now.” Debbie said as she pointed the nail polish brush towards Mr. Lievitz door.
“Wow. How come he’s still working here? Wouldn’t they have fired him? Maybe call the police on him?”
“For what? He hasn’t committed a crime. But he probably has a bulls eye on the back of his head.” Debbie laughed out loud.
As Debbie’s laughter subsided, the elevator at the far wall pinged and three large men entered the office. They glanced across the sea of desks and caught sight of what they were looking for. As they headed to the other side, Debbie kicked at Cora’s leg with her open-toe pump.
“It’s the mafia!” She hissed.
Cora frowned at her. The men stopped in front of Mr. Lievitz door. Without knocking, they entered one at a time. The last one looked out at the workers before closing the door.
“I wish I was a fly on the wall in there.” Debbie said.
Cora stared at the shadows of the three men standing in front of Mr. Lievitz desk. His shadow was small, huddled in his chair. One of the men pulled out what looked like a gun. Cora’s breath caught. There was a flash from the muzzle, the bang of a bullet sliding out of its chamber and then Mr. Lievitz’s shadow toppled backwards. Cora blinked her eyes.
“Earth to Cora, are you there? Did you hear what I said?” Debbie asked.
“Sorry, what did you say?” Cora said as she peered back to the shadows.
Mr. Lievitz’s shadow was still sitting there.
“I said they’re here to collect.”
“How do you know?”
“Look at them? They look like mobsters. Just like the Godfather or something.”
Mr. Lievitz door opened and the men stepped out. He held the door open, his greasy toupé matted against his scalp. He stood there in his baggy suit watching the men leave. Mr. Lievitz noticed Cora had her eyes on him and he immediately closed the door.
“Cora, look!” Debbie said.
Cora followed Debbie’s finger. The men weren’t headed back to the elevator, they were going down the hall that led to the restrooms and lounge.
“Let’s go to the bathroom.” Debbie said as she got up, she pulled down her stretchy dress.
“But I don’t need to go.” Cora said.
Debbie bent over towards Cora’s ear. “ Come on! I want to see what they’re up to. It’s better than sitting here doing nothing.”
Debbie dragged Cora along down the hall. They scanned the area until they heard voices, coming from the stairwell. Debbie tip-toed to the half closed door. Cora tried to yank her back, but instead lost her footing with Debbie’s heels. She found herself against the wall near the stairwell door.
“What should we do about Mr. Lievitz? One of them asked.
“They’re not going to like what he said. They were expecting a different answer.” The second one said.
“Yes we know, Albert.” The first one said.
“Maybe we should go back. Make him see he has no choice.” The third one said.
“What? You want me to stick a gun in his face, Johnny?” The first one said.
Debbie reached out to Cora and squeezed her arm. Cora was starting to feel traces of unease creep along her spine. No one talked. It made Cora get anxious, she could see them thinking.
“Look, I say we go back to our bosses and get more instructions.” The first one said.
Before any of them could answer, Cora heard something drop onto the carpeted floor behind her. She peered back and saw Debbie had picked up her nail polish. Then she noticed Debbie’s eyes widen. Cora felt a presence behind her and spun. The three men were wedged in the doorway looking at them.
“Come this way ladies.” The one named Johnny said.
Cora and Debbie found themselves on the stairwell landing with the three of them blocking the door.
“Were you listening in on our conversation for a reason?” The first one asked.
“Uh, no. I mean yes.” Debbie said, biting her lower lip.
He raised his eyebrows.
“We thought you were someone else.” Cora added.
“Like who?” Albert asked.
“Um, a co-worker of ours.” Debbie said.
“Do you normally listen in on your co-workers’ conversations?” The first one said.
“Yeah, sometimes Mr. Lievitz asks us to.” Cora said.
“Really? How well do you know Mr. Lievitz?” Johnny said, stepping closer to them.
“Well, he’s our boss…” Debbie said.
“Did he ask you to listen in on us?” Johnny asked.
“No, no! Like we said it’s a mistake.” Debbie said and stepped back without realizing that the stairs were right behind her.
For a moment she teetered. Then one of the men grabbed her arm. Debbie scrunched her face in relief and half smiled at him. There was a pause where nothing happened. Cora felt as if she was in a dream and it continued after the man let Debbie go. With the push of gravity, Debbie tumbled down the stairs. With each thud of her body, a pathetic grunt emanated.
Cora stared at her splayed form, forgetting for an instant that she was alone now with these men. Reluctantly she turned, afraid of having her back to them. The three of them smirked.
“Well, that was an unfortunate accident.” Albert said.
Cora’s body shuddered and a sob was threatening to escape.
“We’re going to have to take her with us.” The first one said.
“No.” Cora murmured.
Before Cora could react, a fist hit her on the side of her face and there was only blackness.

“Cora!” A voice called to her.
She was startled awake. Cora blinked rapidly and peered around. She was sitting in her office chair. Some of her co-workers watched her, they were gathered near her desk.
“Cora are you okay? It looks like you bumped your head there when you passed out?” One of them, Mary, said.
“I-I passed out?” Cora was confused.
“Yes, you don’t remember?” Mary asked.
“Maybe we should call an ambulance? She might have a concussion.” Another person said.
“Cora, you fainted in the hallway and Devon found you.” Mary said.
Cora glanced at Devon, he was nodding his head, his curly, brown hair bobbing.
“There were three men here…” Cora started.
“Three men?” Mary said.
“I didn’t see anybody else when I found you.” Devon said.
“Debbie was there. Debbie! Where is she?! They hurt her!” Cora said, trying to stand up. Mary put a hand on her shoulder.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I haven’t seen any strangers walking around. As for Debbie, no one has seen her for a couple of days. We think she quit.” Mary said.
Cora stared at the empty chair where Debbie would have been sitting. Then she noticed Mr. Lievitz standing nearby with a tight grimace.


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