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SNAP: The World Unfolds

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PROLOGUE

 

 

It was blood.  It looked like somebody dropped a cup or glass.  It puddled in front of the sinks and filmed out on the bathroom floor. 

I was startled; usually the bathrooms at SNAP Magazine were spotless.

It didn’t smell like fresh blood, that odd, kind of tangy, metal-y smell, but for sure I wasn’t going to touch it to see if it was warm.

I couldn’t scream, but I was suddenly queasy.  My makeup didn’t need a touch-up that much.  My knees shook as I spun back through the door and headed straight to my assistant’s desk to have her call maintenance or whoever and clean up the mess.

She looked up at me.  “There’s what on the bathroom floor?”

“A big puddle of blood,” I whispered.  “Come see for yourself.”

I didn’t want to run, didn’t want to incite concern in the rest of the staff and have it spread out through the cubicles, but we walked fast.  When we got across the office and down the hall, I pushed open the door and said, “Look!” with a flourish.

“Look at what?” Jazz’ eyebrows disappeared up under her bangs.

I turned my head and saw...nothing.  No blood, no remains, no pink sheen, not even water on the floor.

“Are you sure you saw it?”

“Of course I saw it,” I insisted.  “It was right in front of the sinks.  It covered a patch of the floor.”

Jazz shook her bangs out of her eyes and gave me a withering look that could have dried grapes into raisins.  “I know you’ve only been here a few days, but I can’t think you found blood on the floor.  SNAP has a reputation to keep up and they wouldn’t let something like that sit there for anyone to find.”

“I don’t think anyone would wander into a bathroom back here,” I said.  “Isn’t this for employees only?”

“It’s supposed to be, but sometimes people who are here for a meeting or a shoot use these bathrooms instead of walking up front.  These aren’t nearly as nice as the ones off the lobby and main conference rooms, but it’s quicker.”

I wasn’t happy.  I saw the blood.  I knew it had been there.  I didn’t know why it was gone, but it wasn’t my imagination.  There was nothing I could do about it now, but I was going to be on guard whenever I walked into a bathroom at SNAP.

 


 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

When you get to the top savor it; it’s a long way down, my mother’s mantra, hummed through my head as the elevator rose.  On the eighteenth floor, a muted sound chimed as the doors slid open, and there it was.   The headquarters of SNAP, the newest, cutting-ist edge gathering-of-information machine covering people who matter in the world.

As I stepped into the lobby I was deafened by the silence.  Two receptionists sat behind the black marble counter, showing only their heads with headsets.  They were murmuring something, but so quietly I couldn’t hear words.  The famous SNAP logo etched into the wall-to-wall, ceiling-high mirror reflected the backs of their heads.

The reflection only showed my head and shoulders, my body disappearing as I neared the black slab.  The receptionists were both blonds, so fair their skin had a translucent pale blue tone sliced by mouths slathered in Russian Red lipstick.  At least I hoped it was lipstick.

The one at the right glanced up, murmured something and clicked a button.  Up close, I could see that the phones were set into the marble counter and had no sound, only buttons that were lighting up.  The receptionist tapped an earbud, pulled it away from her head and asked, “May I help you?”   Her red mouth formed to something not quite a smile and her eyes looked through me.

“Good morning.” I used my best professional voice. “I’m Maxmillia Gwenoch.”

She looked, she continued gazing through me, she didn’t speak and didn’t blink an eye.  I was startled.  I’d never before seen anyone who could go that long without a blink.

It was clear my name meant nothing and she wasn’t going to deign to ask me why I was there, so I added. “I’m the new managing editor.  I’m starting this morning.  Can someone show me to my office?”

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