A harrowing tale of harassment: excerpt from Social Misconduct


Candace Walker is thrilled when she lands a brand new job at a hip Manhattan tech firm and will get a brand-new iPhone. A week later, although, every little thing is in danger: She’s the goal of a mysterious harasser and an internet smear marketing campaign. She tosses her new cellphone into the Hudson River, begins hiding out and might’t suppose of a single particular person she will belief. But Candace isn’t going to submit to what’s taking place with no battle.

Ottawa journalist S. J. Maher has uncovered scandals, reported from jails, warships, parliamentary chambers, Afghanistan and Haiti. His second novel, Salvage, was shortlisted for awards by the Crime Writers of Canada and The International Thriller Writers.

I dropped my cellphone into the Hudson River yesterday.

I used to be standing on the again of the ferry, touring to Jersey City from the floating, glass-walled terminal on the foot of One World Trade Center. I stood there, within the wind and solar, like a carefree vacationer, gaping on the Freedom Tower, and put my hand over the rail and opened it and let my iPhone X fall into the churning water under.

I didn’t look all the way down to see it sink under the floor, in case they had been watching me. I don’t suppose they had been, although, as a result of they didn’t want to observe me. Not whereas I had the cellphone. But I couldn’t ensure, and I can’t afford to take any probabilities.

That’s my new motto. Take no probabilities.

I hold enthusiastic about that silly cellphone, sitting on the underside of the river, as a result of I hold considering, Hey! This is boring! I ought to examine my cellphone. Oh, I can’t. It’s on the underside of the river. That occurs much less typically immediately than it did yesterday. I hope that quickly it’ll go away utterly.

I hate writing by hand.

I purchased this pocket book simply earlier than I obtained on the ferry, for $24.95, at a store close to the terminal, one of these locations that used to promote books and now sells calendars and candlesticks. I wished to see if anybody was following me earlier than I obtained on the ferry, so I popped into the store, seemed round, noticed a stack of Moleskines, and acquired one on impulse, with money.

It feels unusual to be writing with a pen once more, and never simply because my hand hurts from the place the subway practice hit it.

My handwriting appears to be like prefer it belongs to an earlier model of myself, a junior highschool pupil doing a ebook report, or sharing her emotions about One Direction. My phrases don’t appear like my ideas, that are in Times New Roman or Helvetica, relying on my temper, not this bizarre girlish script.

I’m glad I’ve the pocket book, although, as a result of I want a report of necessary occasions that I can recall clearly now however that I do know will fade or turn out to be distorted over time. This is my AutoRecover, my backup.

Also, I want one thing to do.

All I do is wait and suppose, attempt to determine what occurred to me, stare on the metal door and hope it doesn’t open, and absently attain for my cellphone each 5 minutes, then do not forget that it’s on the backside of the river.

———

The cellphone was sitting within the center of Rebecca’s blond picket desk after I first noticed it, in its shiny white cardboard field, like a gift ready to be opened.

Rebecca’s stylishly furnished workplace was on the entrance of the constructing, a brick room with home windows overlooking Sixteenth Street — a distinction to the crowded, windowless house within the again the place the click-drivers labored. On the window behind the desk there have been a bunch of yellow sticky notes. Rebecca and her good friend within the workplace throughout Sixteenth Street put emoticons on their home windows each day, a playful interoffice social semaphore. Today it was a :-Zero.

She waited till I sat down, then seemed on the field and smiled. I may inform she was relishing the tiny drama of the second.

“So, Candace, I have some good news for you,” she stated.

I attempted to appear like I used to be mildly happy. Inside: mariachi music.

I’d been driving clicks for SoSol for eight months, sharing a desk with a half-dozen different sullen younger individuals. We competed to see who may provide you with the worst clickbait adverts, taking ironic satisfaction in fat-shaming celebrities, making self-loathing wisecracks to cover our grim competitiveness.

Working for the New Media Lab can be completely different. SoSol (previously Social Solutions) was launching a advertising and marketing department, with actual shoppers, not the sort that promote weight-loss capsules and natural erection boosters to idiots.

She waited till I sat down, then seemed on the field and smiled. I may inform she was relishing the tiny drama of the second.

I’d had the sensation I used to be going to get the job. Beatrice, my finest good friend among the many clickbait crew, had additionally utilized. She was good and sassy however ostentatiously disengaged from her work, properly previous the purpose of the dignity-maintaining detachment I sustained, saving her actual power for her artwork and Rudy, her accomplice.

But Beatrice wasn’t in right here with Rebecca. I used to be.

Rebecca closed her laptop computer and leaned again in her chair. “I just got the email from Craig,” she stated. “And I’m pleased to tell you we want you to be part of the launch team.”

She smiled at me expectantly. What to say?

“Awesome! Thank you for the opportunity. I’m really excited.”

Is that what she wished? Did she want extra enthusiasm? Should I suck up?

Rebecca is early twenties, African American, like, actually African, Kenyan or one thing, and exquisite, with shiny ebony pores and skin and gorgeous lips and cheekbones, at all times stylishly dressed, like a mannequin moonlighting. She’s laborious to learn.

“I hope you’re ready to work hard because I pushed for you to be on the team,” she stated, and checked out me. What did that imply? Did it imply Craig, her boss, wished another person?

I assumed he appreciated me. He’s in his forties, homosexual, trendy, energetic, type of a distant determine to the clickbait crew, however within the interview we appeared to attach.

I discovered him extra simple to cope with than Rebecca. He appeared to solely need me to exhibit that I accepted his management and thought he was superior, which was simple sufficient to faux. Rebecca at all times appeared to need one thing I wasn’t giving her, or to be upset that I hadn’t stated one thing or executed one thing that I didn’t know I ought to say or do.

“Thank you, Rebecca. I’m pumped.”

She checked out me with a brittle smile, as if she wasn’t positive she’d made the fitting name.

“It wasn’t an easy decision. There were so many good candidates. I felt, though, that your work here was so good we should give you a shot. You showed real initiative and creativity with CelluVibe.”

I nodded modestly.

CelluVibe is a handheld electrical massager that deluded fats women throughout America use to vibrate their dimpled pores and skin within the mistaken perception that it’ll by some means take away their fats cells. An advert I designed — with pink circles across the cottage cheese on Britney Spears’s thighs — blew out all our metrics, making heaps of cash for SoSol, coarsening the tradition, ripping off numerous lovelorn chubbos, and making me the secretly self-hating star of the clickbait crew.

“I was really pleased at how that caught on.”

“Virality,” stated Rebecca. “That’s what you bring. And that’s what we need.”

Ask about cash. Ask about cash.

“I’m really going to throw myself into this, Rebecca. This is where I want my career to go, so I’m super motivated, partly because I’d like to eventually make a little more money.”

Rebecca’s smile obtained thinner.

“Would there be a raise, um, attached to the promotion?”

“Not initially. No. It’s a start-up, so we are going to prioritize cost-control until it produces revenue. But if it works the way we think it will, it would be kind of normal for your compensation to be addressed.”

Okay. So no increase immediately, which wouldn’t assist me pay down my bank card debt, or permit me to journey anyplace fascinating earlier than I used to be too previous to take pleasure in myself.

I used to be going to ask her once we would possibly revisit the query when Kevin appeared on the door. Kevin was the tech man, and the one lumpy particular person at SoSol, a tragic wannabe hipster. He had a sandy receding hairline, a silly sandy moustache, dishevelled denims, and a light Rush T-shirt. There was a sequence connecting his belt to his pockets.

“Kevin, there you are!” stated Rebecca. “Can you help Candace set up her new phone?”

He walked to the desk, opened the field, booted up the cellphone, obtained me to sign up with my iCloud password, and hovered behind me till I seen from the reflection within the cellphone that he was wanting down my scoop-neck high. He was truly gaping.

I grasped my collar and cleared my throat, and Rebecca circled, noticed what was up, and gave him a grimy look. He began and turned away.

“Dude, I got this,” I stated.

He blushed and walked backward to the door, babbling. “No problem it should be okay now let me know if you have any problems it’s pretty easy.”

I gave Rebecca a quizzical take care of he left.

“He was,” she stated.

“I know, right?”

“Totally.”

“Creeper.”

We shared a second of wordless disgusted sisterly commiseration.

“So we’ll get you a desk in the New Media Lab space once we get it set up next week,” she stated. “For now, you can work from your spot in Content Marketing.”

“You haven’t told Beatrice or the other applicants yet?” I used to be nervous about that.

“I’m working on an announcement,” she stated, gesturing to her laptop computer.

“I have an idea for that,” I stated.

Social Misconduct is printed by Simon & Schuster.

What S.J. Maher is studying:

“Butterfly, by John Delacourt, begins when an attractive Bosnian pupil invitations her lonely night-school English teacher to attend a Toronto gallery opening, a candy romantic begin to a darkish, complicated literary thriller that wrestles with the aftermath of the Yugoslav civl conflict. Delacourt takes readers by means of grim terrain with compassion and sensitivity.”

 



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