On an elite team of three software engineers, Madrigal is the only woman; she is “lucky”. The other two? They are “hard-working”. That luck is not enough to save her from the menial tasks everyone seems to love giving her.
Don’t mind them, her boyfriend Aga says. At the end of the day, you still work at a big company and you get a big paycheck and you live in a big house. Look at me! I work at a gas station and—
Her ears ache as he prattles on, the whining sound of his voice reverberating through her eardrums like the incessant buzzing of a fly.
Look at your hands! They’re soft. Mine are rough. Still, you look at your big house.Your soft hands got you there. Look, mine are so rough. Where have they gotten me?
Where are you on the Kirkland project?
Madrigal looks up from her desk, a slight furrow between her brows. She is out of breath. The production manager wanted coffee for his team, and the nearest cafe was 10 blocks away. No one else is free to do it but you, he said. So she did what he asked and made it before they left for their meeting. Barely.
She wipes the perspiration building at her hairline and the man repeats himself, slowly, as if she didn’t understand him the first time, as if she were a child: Where are you on the Kirkland project?
Madrigal shakes her head. I’m not in charge of that. He is, she says, nodding in the direction of an empty cubicle.
The man is clearly annoyed. He takes a deep breath and Madrigal braces herself.
He was. He was, but he hasn’t shown up in a week and no one can get a hold of him. I thought you would’ve taken initiative, at the very least, but I guess not.
Madrigal continues to stare at the empty cubicle. A whole week. He’d been gone a whole week. The corners of her mouth twitch.
Her attention goes back to the man.
So, you’ll take it over then right?
She tilts her head slightly, Marcus doesn’t want it?
Then… she pauses, I guess I will.
Another week goes by.
The Kirkland project is complete and the presentation is at 4pm.
Madrigal sits at her cubicle going over her notes and making sure all the data is correct. She has been doing this since she arrived at the office at 7am, but alas, one can never be too sure.
The office today is a little noisy as Detective Santiago is back again with two no-name officers flanking her on both sides. They talk to the people they didn’t have a chance to speak to the other day.
It’s a little annoying, Madrigal thinks to herself.
She flips back to the beginning of her presentation booklet to look over it one last time, blocking out the sound of her co-workers gasping, of her co-workers protesting in disbelief, and of her co-workers breaking down into tears.
The Kirkland presentation is in an hour.
She must be prepared.
Where were you, mmm, two weeks ago? Friday.
A total of six eyes are on her. She looks at each one slowly before looking back down at her lap.
I was here—doing overtime.
Madrigal listens to the sound of pen on paper, the small hairs on her arm raising in response.
No one saw you here, it seems.
The detective’s dark eyes peer over at Madrigal from the thin rim of some convenience store reading glasses. They aren’t very fashionable, but they seem to suit the woman.
People usually don’t, Madrigal replies, making direct eye contact with her.
You’re telling me Marcus is missing now too? What the fuck.
Shut up. Don’t be so loud. People are still, y’know… on edge about that.
No-fucking-shit, man. It’s not everyday someone you work with might be d—
Madrigal clears her throat, nodding her head to the two in acknowledgment. They seem annoyed, but they get the point and move to the side, allowing her access to the electric kettle. The two men speak quietly enough that the soft rumble of boiling water is the only thing she can hear.
As the kettle lets out a cry and automatically shuts off, she prepares to reach for it when she gets distracted by the large bruise right above her wrist, revealed by the pull of her blazer. She turns around quickly, her heart beginning to pound, but to her relief, the two men are gone.
She returns her attention back to the kettle and has a hard time deciding: green or black tea?
There was a struggle.
The markings on one man’s neck is vivid below the pallid complexion of his face. It’s a bit beautiful, the contrast, but the flies swarming around him have no concept of beauty. The other man lays limp a few feet away, hands flat beside him, the concrete painted a dark red where his wrists lay. They are both smiling, smiling the way Mona Lisa seems to smile. When the forensics team comes to take their pictures, the air is unsettling and quiet, like an empty moonlit room at the Louvre.
Madrigal looks up from her desk as a figure approaches. He’s mumbling under his breath and doesn’t seem to want to make eye contact. He does eventually, albeit reluctantly.
It’s a horrible thing, the man huffs, but we need to move on. You have the credentials and there’s too much heat on us right now to hire more engineers. You’ll take over the Jansen and Pilboy projects, I hope?
Madrigal blinks at him, expressionless.
I guess I will.