Noah Rain stepped out of his car and into the stuffed parking lot. He let out a sigh as he unbuttoned his light, black coat and let the crisp October morning air cool his body. He had had a light fever for couple of days, and considered calling off work sick. But the company head had requested that Noah see him as soon as possible this morning. He would just have to deal with it for today.
He closed the door, then pulled back his coat's sleeve and glanced at his watch. Five a.m. on the dot. He took in a deep breath and moved through the sea of cars towards the office building.
Noah was a field journalist at New FOX news, the result of a merging between FOX news and several smaller news companies in New York, including the one he had worked for. FOX news had undergone years of hammering from the Liberal media, which quickly became the dominant. By the time the Obama administration was out of office and the elections were rolling around once more, FOX was all but crippled and ready to be taken off the air. They immediately looked for support from local companies in New York, including a few from neighboring states. Many agreed right away, again including the one employing Noah. The merge resulted in several layoffs to replace old employees with the more efficient incoming ones. Mr. Handover, the head of the building, had accumulated a large list of field journalists, junior columnists, correspondents, reporters, and photographers. It seemed as if only the senior columnists and editors were untouched.
So far, Noah had managed to avoid the layoffs, and was comfortable with his position. Only twenty-six years old, and he had already landed himself a good job with decent pay right out of college.
But, because he worked at a newsroom, he constantly had to remind himself that it was easy to slip in, nice and comfortable with his job, and then lose everything in a snap. Like sleeping in a velvet coffin.
As he left the parking lot and stepped through the glass front doors, Noah just hoped that he wasn't next on Handover's list.
The building's interior was much fancier than the bland, beige walls outside would lead one to expect.
The lobby was a large, open room that took up almost all of the ground floor. The front desk, a receptionist seated behind it, sat at the wall opposite of of the entrance. Placed alongside the main walkway, on either side, was a long, black leather couch. At the ends, small, leafy trees were planted in light-brown pots, complimented by the sand-colored wallpaper. The floor was a dark black stone flecked with white specks. Carefully placed rugs lined the walkway from the front doors to the lobby desk.
Noah took note of a pair of businessmen seated at the couch to his right as he walked on. One was jabbering on his cell phone to who seemed to be a client of his, while the other poured over a spreadsheet ringed into a binder on his lap, making notes with a red-inked pen. Noah and the man on the cell phone exchanged smiles as he passed by, but he quickly returned to his conversation.
As he approached the counter, a phone rang. The receptionist picked it up, giving Noah a “one minute” gesture. While he waited, he looked up at the wall behind the counter, where a string of paintings hung – portraits of the company's owners before the merger.
It started with a round-faced, rosy-cheeked man, Thomas Valentine, who started the company back in 1941. Looking down the line, almost all of them were grim-faced old men, save the one at the end. Mr. Handover. The head of the building, and the company's previous owner. More importantly, he was Noah's boss.
His hair, wisps of thinning gray, was receding in the front of his scalp, letting show the wrinkles he had obtained through years of devoted work. He had a long, thin nose that came to a pointy end just above his thin-lipped mouth. But, unlike in the other portraits, he was smiling. Oddly, it was calming. Almost relaxing. It was a very rare trait among men like Handover – professional, serious, stern workaholics.
Noah had always held a sense of respect and downright awe for the way he could handle even the most intense of situations with total calm and serenity.
The phone met the receiver with a click. “Sir?”
Noah looked away from the paintings and back to the receptionist. “Uh, yes?”
The woman raised an eyebrow. “Is there something you need?”
Noah cleared his throat. “Yes, I have an appointment with Mr. Handover.”
“Alright. Are you a visitor?”
“No, I work here.”
“Okay.” She pulled a slip of paper out of a manilla folder resting on the counter, labeled “Appointment Confirmations”. “Your last name, please?”
“Rain.” Noah shifted his balance over to his other leg.
The receptionist grabbed a pen from a cup to her right. She skimmed down the sheet of names until she came to the R's. “Here we go.” She stopped at Noah's name. “October twenty-third...Noah Rain.” She put the file back into the folder, and looked at Noah.
“Hey, Noah Rain. Kind of -”
Noah cut her off. “Yes. Noah. Rain. Hilarious, I know. Can you please let Mr. Handover know I'm on my way?”
The woman stared at him for a moment, then picked up the phone. She punched in a three-digit number, and put it up to her ear. After three rings, she said, “Yes, Mr. Handover. Noah Rain is here to see you. Yes. Sure thing, Mr. Handover.” She put the phone back down. “Floor twenty-three, room two-fifteen.” She gestured toward an elevator down a short hallway to her right.
“Thanks.” Noah re-adjusted his jacket and and made his way to the elevator.
“Two-ten...two-eleven...two twelve...” Noah glided down the hall, on his way to Handover's office. Things were relatively quiet. It could've been because it was so early in the morning, but he knew better; this floor was for the big-wig executives who wouldn't be bothered with the drool downstairs. He always hated coming up here – no matter how high he climbed the corporate ladder, there was always someone to turn their nose up at him.
“Two-thirteen...two-fourteen...” He stopped at the large, black door marked 215. He cleared his throat, exhaled, and knocked on the door. A moment of silence passed, and then a firm, smooth voice called out: “Come in.”
Noah pushed the door open and stepped inside the office. Handover was seated at a cluttered desk, thoughtlessly tapping a pen against it while he spoke with someone of the phone. To either side of him, stuffed shelves and filing cabinets lined the walls, which were bare except for one painting that hung above the doorway. It was fairly simple; a quote from the Bible, framed against a beige background, reading: “And Jesus replied, 'Love the Lord thy God with all your heart and with all you soul and mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as you do yourself.'”.
Behind Handover, a huge glass window took the place of a wall. When he looked out, Noah could see the sun just peeking out over the city-skyline.
“Yes, Mr. Beck. Again, I apologize for the re-scheduling on such short notice. Yes, it was nice talking to you, too. Goodbye.” Handover hung the phone up, then looked to his young visitor. “Ah, Noah. Please, take a seat.”
Noah removed his coat and hung it on a rack near the door, and sat down in one of two chairs placed in front of the desk.
Handover leaned back in his chair, smiling at Noah, who immediately lost the feeling of anxiety.
Noah folded his hands, and cleared his throat once more. “You asked to see me, sir?”
Handover arched forward and folded his own hands on the desk, but the smile remained glued to his face. “Yes, I did. I wanted talk to you about your position.”
The young journalist instantly felt relieved that he used the word “position” instead of “job”. “Yes?” he managed to squeeze out.
“I'm going to make this short and sweet.” his boss said, re-assuming his professional air. “Given the overtime you've been plugging in, the numerous breaking-news stories you've covered in the past few months, and early clock-ins, I've decided to give you a promotion with raise.”
Noah, confused, sat and listened.
“How does a sixty-thousand dollar annual salary as an editor sound? Granted, you will be working six-day weeks, lunch at your desks, no breaks, but I think you can manage. What do you think?”
Noah stared. He had no idea what to say. He had come in, expecting the pink slip, and he gets slapped with a promotion and a twenty-thousand dollar rise in his salary. What was he supposed to say?
“That...That sounds wonderful, Mr. Handover.”
A smile broke out over his boss's face once again. “Good. Because you deserve it, Noah. You've been working hard. Don't think I didn't hear about you covering that shooting at one in the morning last week. Or the story you did on TeleComm's gigantic 401 (k) savings fraud.”
“Yeah.” Noah breathed. “Kept me up for a month..”
“Which is why you deserve this promotion, Noah.” Handover re-adjusted his position in his seat, sitting completely upright. “The changes aren't due until the end of the month, so I want you to finish any stories you have going right now and get them printed.”
“Yes, sir.” was all Noah could say. He and Handover stood up to shake each other's hands.
“Have a nice day, Mr. Rain.”
Noah nodded. He turned and grabbed his coat, and headed out the door.
“Oh, yes. Clean out your cubicle when you're finished.” Handover said as the door closed. “You'll be getting a new office.”