“Shane, shouldn’t you be on the floor right now? Why are you on break?”
Shane stiffened as Charles twitched beside him, almost violently, at the sound of the woman’s voice. They shared matching opinions of Carla, the micro-managing Pit Boss with blazing red, spiked hair.
“I was in an hour and twenty,” Shane stated.
“Don’t lie. I know what time you went onto the floor.” She didn’t actually look at him, choosing instead to stay visually engrossed in stirring her tea in its recyclable paper cup.
“I’m not lying.” Bristling, he squared himself with her and glowered, aware that most of the people in the lowly lit breakroom were listening attentively even though their eyes were focused on the television or their books and phones. She couldn’t possibly know what time he had walked onto the floor as she was stationed on the far side of the casino, nowhere near him.
“Both of you like to grab extra breaks when you should be on the floor.” Carla raised the cup to her lips and sipped, her lips pulling toward the center like the mouth of a guppy.
“You need to stop accusing us of stuff,” Shane growled. Beside him, Charles stared angrily at the floor. Charles wouldn’t speak to Carla at all which left him open to all sorts of accusations from her.
“Is that a threat?” Now she looked at him. It was very disconcerting because even though her eyes were focused Shane was positive she was actually staring at a spot on his head.
“It’s a statement. Do you see the difference?”
Someone snorted softly from the couch, confirming Shane’s belief that the other people were listening.
Setting her cup down Carla looked toward the television where a commercial was trying to encourage people to pester their doctors for a new drug that would miraculously cure something.
‘You need to lose the attitude, mister.”
This would have been the perfect time to walk away. Shane knew he should just grab Charles by the arm and head out the door, leaving Carla to her thoughts but, today had been rough and his nerves were snapping off sparks. Her baiting him seemed like an open invitation to argue. Taking a single step toward her table he planted both his hands flat on the faded, faux wood top and stared at her spiky hair that always looked like she had just rolled out of bed.
“Since I actually know what time I went onto the floor and can verify it without guessing, I would be happy to take this little problem to the Shift office with you if you like?” At this distance he could see that her skin looked paler than usual, her cheeks barely tinged with healthy color. For the zillionth time he wondered if she was a vampire? Charles was terrified of the idea of blood-sucking immortals. They had logged many hours of conversations on the subject of which mythological beasts their supervisors resembled the most and Carla always landed in the category of vampire.
“I can certainly arrange that!” Carla’s head swiveled toward him and her eyes fastened onto his. They stared each other down. Every head in the break room rose and turned to watch the outcome.
Shane felt his stomach clench in sudden panic. What had he expected to happen when he had decided to loom over her? Did he think Carla would just back down and concede that she might actually be wrong? The seconds ticked by while his eyes stayed locked on her, trapped by the challenge he should have walked away from. Win or lose he was sure he would be paying for this in the end. On impulse – or desperation – he spoke.
“Then make the call, Carla.” His vision threatened to blur as he fought the urge to blink. Please, make the damn call, he begged silently.
As if hearing his unspoken plea Carla’s mouth twisted into a nasty, gleeful, snarl and she shoved her chair back from the table, ripping her eyes away from his in a way that didn’t feel at all like a victory. Moving like a panther she shot to her feet and walked to the break room phone.
Savoring the relief of not looking at her Shane stayed hunched over the table just a second too long for him to actually claim a win. How the hell had she managed to break contact first and still leave him feeling like he had been wrong? He could feel the onlookers return to their previous postures, leaving him alone with his loss.
Straightening up, Shane looked for Charles. His friend was leaning against the sink, staring at the drug commercial on the television, trying hard to not add to the problem. Had that really only taken seconds? Maybe the commercial had played twice in a row? That happened sometimes.
Carla’s voice, soft and respectful now as she spoke into the phone reminded Shane that things were not settled. The first shots had been fired and now the wounded needed to be interrogated.