Part One: Before The Change

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I looked at the stack of papers surrounding me and wished (for at least the dozenth time that day) that I could run away to the Bahamas. I smiled as I remembered the lunchtime phone call I'd had earlier that day with my best friend. Sick to death of the audit at work and worried about the full day of meetings I had scheduled for tomorrow, I'd told him that if I went missing that afternoon to start looking on the white sand beaches of Nassau. He'd chuckled and reminded me that I had a week of vacation coming, just as soon the auditors went on their merry way.

If I'd known that was the last time I would ever talk to him again, I probably would have told him I loved him. Oh not that way, not for a long time now. But, Caleb Nash was the single most important person in my life. He'd been my boyfriend once, many years ago. When that didn't work, what upset both of us the most was the idea that we'd lose the close friendship we shared. We made a vow, Caleb and I, that no matter how difficult or upsetting the situation was, we'd work through it together. He'd been my best friend ever since.

Wishing I really could walk away from it all, I started digging through the stacks of paper sitting on my coffee table. I worked as an accountant and financial analyst for a cement company. I'd been there about six years and the longer I was there it seemed like the more crap I took care of. Somehow, I'd gotten assigned to deal with the sales tax auditors and they were making my life miserable.

Rather than come out once a year, sales tax auditors only bothered me once every three years. I'd heard a rumor that some companies never had to deal with them at all. I put that down to heresy and rampant speculation. I'd been given a list of invoices the auditors needed copies of and most of them were almost the full three years old. I'd managed to locate all of them but two. After determining the invoices weren't hiding in the stack I'd already sorted twice, I slumped on the sofa and argued with myself.

I had a good idea where those invoices might be stored, but it meant going back out to the office. I was mostly ready for the meeting with the executives to hammer out the final details of the budget, maybe I could dig for the invoices in the morning?

No. If I was right, those invoices were buried in the basement file room and there was no way I could hunt through that mess and not come out looking like something the Swamp Thing threw up on New Years Eve. I sighed and pulled myself off the sofa. I wanted to change my clothes before digging around in the cellar at work, or as I privately called it, The Basement of Horror. I wandered back to my bedroom and pulled on an old, stained pair of jeans that had seen better days. The tee shirt I was wearing had a stain on my left breast where I'd spilled red sangria a few months ago, so it would do. I shoved my feet into my oldest pair of sneakers, grabbed my keys and headed out to my car.

The apartment complex was quiet. It was a small town and the people who lived here were mostly older, like myself. Well, I'm not that old but I'd celebrated my 43rd birthday earlier this year so I fit right in around here. I had a large, two bedroom apartment on the top floor of my three story building. It wasn't anything special, but it had been built back in the 1970s and the apartments were virtually soundproof. My neighbors were friendly enough, but we mostly left each other alone.

It was only a short drive out to my office. I always thought it was a little odd to see a two story office building sitting in the middle of a field. There were some houses here and there nearby, but it was very rural and deserted. In order to be close to the stone quarry and mixing plant that served as our center of operations, the company had decided to build the offices out here rather than in town. I didn't mind it during the day, but the sun was almost gone and in the dark the deserted atmosphere bumped up the spook factor.

I parked as close as I could to the admin building and carefully locked my car before heading inside. I may be a small town girl, but my parents had drilled into me it was better to be safe than sorry. It was funny how missing them would sometimes hit me out of nowhere. My dad had died when I was barely into my twenties, but my mom had only been gone a few months.

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