Zach could not help but wonder if everyone at Skypeak knew each other in the real world. Matthias had briefly told him he went to university with Richard, and Jodie and Guinevere seemed to know one another too. Zach felt like an oddball for not knowing any of the four outside of the clubhouse, but he knew he was already an oddball by default.
Watching as Jodie slipped past Guinevere, his curiosity was nudging him to find out what was going on between them. But when Jodie finally stood before him, he lost all courage to bring it up.
“How was your morning?” Jodie asked.
“Ok, I guess,” Zach replied.
“You know what’s good here?”
“This is,” Zach said, as he pointed at his plate of spaghetti.
“Great, I’ll be right back.”
Not having to wait long, Zach soon found himself having lunch with a friend. Even though he barely knew Jodie, she was the only one he could trust among the elitist, and that was enough for him.
“So, I think I’m finally done with my sabbatical,” Zach casually brought up.
“Ah, that’s good news,” Jodie replied, as though she knew what was really going on.
Zach gave her a smile and then an awkward moment of silence lingered between them. Maybe talking about his life outside of Skypeak was not a good idea, but Zach had no one else to share it with. His ex-colleagues were too busy trying to find a job, his brother was away on a long business trip, and his friends… well, Zach didn’t have any. He slaved away for his former employer that he barely had time to socialize. It was sad, but true.
“Which company? If you don’t mind me asking,” Jodie asked.
“Not really a company. Honestly, I’m not too sure if I should even take the job.”
“Hmm, you’ve made me curious. Tell me more,” Jodie said with a smile and Zach knew she was trying.
“A person. Matthias… to be precise.” Zach could hear the uncertainty in his own voice.
“Oh,” Jodie simply responded before shaking her head.
“Not a good idea. Matthias is clever, too clever in fact. He probably has an ulterior motive.”
“He seems nice though,” Zach stated. He might have sounded naïve, but he genuinely thought Matthias was nice.
“He’s nice, but that does not mean he doesn’t have a plan.”
“So you’re saying I shouldn’t take the job?”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea, that’s all. I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but for someone who has made his way to the top so quickly…” Jodie trailed off with a shrug.
Zach thought about what Jodie had said as he finished up his meal. She was not wrong about Matthias. He did climb the ladder effortlessly, and commendably so at Axis Motors, which was a multi-billion dollar company. It was also a subsidiary to Wilhelm Group and Matthias could keep on climbing if he wanted to.
Unintentionally, Zach began thinking about what his life would be if he could make the climb. And then, as though a jigsaw piece had found a match, Zach realised his company was a subsidiary of Wilhelm Group too.
In a brief moment of disbelief, Zach said, “My company, my ex-company, was under Wilhelm Group.”
Jodie simply nodded her head, seemingly not sure on how to respond to his statement.
“Small world huh, well, not really,” Zach added with a chuckle.
“Why did you leave though? Or were you…”
“It went bankrupt. I thought we were doing pretty well, but a month after a new management took over, it shut down.”
Zach waited for Jodie to give a response, but she said nothing. Instead, she gave him a strange look. Zach did not get it at first but when another jigsaw piece fitted, his eyes widened. Almost immediately, Jodie reacted with a, “Don’t go there.”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t go digging. Playing with the big boys is dangerous. If you find a skeleton, you might end up as one.” And that was the end of the conversation.
After lunch, Zach found himself mopping more floors as his head began to fill with different theories. He wondered why he had not thought of it earlier, but he blamed it on being too stressed out over surviving. Perhaps that was why no one he knew questioned the bankruptcy; survival first, conspiracy theories later. By the end of the day, Zach considered searching for the truth and he could not help but suspect that Matthias might have the answers.
As Zach called it a day, he decided he should really think his decision through before making a move. Not knowing if the other four had already clocked out before him, he headed to the clubhouse bar for some alone time. It was there that he found Richard, drinking by himself.
The bar opened till midnight on the weekends and with a crowd, Zach was rather surprised that Richard spotted him. Richard gave him a wave and with an unexplainable reaction, Zach headed towards him.
“Hi, fancy seeing you here,” Richard said.
“Well, I just needed a break,” Zach replied.
“Don’t we all. Take a seat. Let me buy you a drink,” Richard offered.
“Come on. I know you don’t like me, but you can’t turn down a free drink,” Richard said, and then as though he realised he might have said something offensive, he added, “didn’t mean anything by that. I wouldn’t turn down a free drink either.”
Without having an ego to protect, Zach knew Richard was right. Maybe a free drink could take his mind off the conspiracy theories. But just as Zach was about to take a seat, his phone rang. The caller ID read, ‘Matthias’, and Zach immediately felt his fingers itching.
Should he take Jodie’s advice and leave his past alone, or should he answer the call? Zach had to decide.