THE PERILS OF LOUELLA:

Chapter 148: Louella's Boss Found Dead

by Alice Cherbonnier

FURIOUS, Louella rapidly packed her personal belongings in cardboard boxes. At the very least the creep could've warned me I was getting laid off! she fumed as she labored under the watchful eye of a uniformed security guard in her doorway. The [expletive deleted] knows I take the MARC train! How's he expect me to carry this stuff home? There ought to be special consideration for mass transit commuters when they get the axe!
It seemed to Louella that the guard was smirking. "You enjoying this?" she snapped. "Guess with this kind of job you never get laid off, huh? Busy all the time, huh?"
"Can't talk now, ma'am," he said neutrally. "Against regulations." "Well, can you tell me how many people got let go? How many guards are on duty here today?"
He looked up and down the hall, then said curtly, "Six. That's all I can say. They don't tell us much. I'd appreciate it if you'd not talk to me any more."
"Well, you won't object if I talk to myself, will you?" Louella was near tears, but this time she realized they were from anger, not from sadness or self-recrimination. "It's that Canadian company that bought us out that's causing this, right? Guess we weren't generating enough revenue in this division. Toxic waste P.R. isn't so hot any more, is it? Not when Congress is so cozy with the corporations without any help from us!" He shrugged, averting his eyes.
The phone rang. Louella answered, trying to sound like nothing was happening. "Lou? It's Candy! Look, I've gotta tell ya, Mason's lost his job hanging drywall! He didn't see it coming. He just went to ask for a raise and they told him to take a hike. And here he is only one payment into his car loan! We were wondering if you could help us out--"
"Look, I can't talk now, Candy. I'll be home early. See you then, okay?" She hung up without waiting for a response. She impatiently closed up the boxes. "Am I allowed a trip to the ladies' room?" she asked sarcastically.
"Be my guest," said the guard, who stepped aside to let her pass and watched her make her way down the hall and opened the familiar door for the last time. Frieda and Joan were already inside, bawling.
"You, too?" Louella asked. Both nodded. "First time?" Two nods again.
"Well, it gets easier the more it happens," said Louella. "You stop blaming yourself after the third or fourth time. You get so you just get mad at the [expletive deleted] who lay you off." They looked at her, wide-eyed.
"That's horrible!" sniffled Frieda. "How many times for you?" Louella considered as she dried her hands. "This makes four, not counting the times I've quit." Louella felt like some kind of battle hero.
"Do they have a guard on you, too?" asked Joan. "Yeah," said Louella, "but they were stupid enough to use men, huh? Gives us this chance for a little chat. I'm surprised mine didn't follow me in here."
"The place is probably bugged!" said Frieda. "Those [expletive deleted]! To think how hard I worked for them!"
"Me too!" said Joan, snuffling.
From outside there was a piercing female scream, followed by heavy footsteps. Louella looked out. Guards were running into the boss's office. The boss's secretary was standing helplessly in the hall, arms slack, obviously in shock. Louella smiled.

- TO BE CONTINUED -

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