The contrast between the HR offices and Collections stunned Peter. Since Collections occupied the same building as CFirm, he knew their digs wouldn’t be as nice as in the newer building, but even for the older structure, the offices were Spartan and dismal. Lighting was at a premium and shadows draped the entire cube farm. The only sound emanating from the area was the low hum of crèche cooling fans. No conversations broke that low-level buzzing. Upon entering the darkened area, Peter had to double back to make sure the offices were even occupied. Standing at the door, he uttered a timid, “Hello?” which sounded as loud as a gunshot in the murky silence.

“What do you want?” The disembodied voice, filled with electronic static, seemed to come from everywhere at once.

“I’m here to see Margaret.”

“Straight across, cowboy.” Bridge peered through the darkness and found a sliver of light seeping from the sill of a door opened but a crack.

Peter muttered a weak “Thank you,” at whoever had directed him towards the door and walked across the floor. His hesitant knock thundered through the area and echoed back on him.

“Yeah, what?” came the response, a gravely female voice.

Peter eased the door open. “Are you Margaret?”

“Who wants to know?” The speaker sat behind a desk, her long fingers dancing the air on a keyboard only she could see. She slouched in her chair, her head almost level with the battered desk. She had curly blonde hair that cascaded sloppily down to her shoulders, its luster just beginning to fade. Peter reckoned her in the mid-30’s, the start of crow’s feet edging at her hazel eyes. She wore a little too much makeup, her cheeks rosier than natural. Her silk blouse was an ill-fitting number, the sign of someone not especially that concerned with her appearance, or at least someone who didn’t really have to worry about it within the confines of her job.

“Peter. I’m heading up the CFirm division.”

“Didn’t we buy you out few months back?”