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The man in the steel colored tie folded his hands on the desk and asked her in measured tones, “Do you have any idea why I called you in here today, Ms. Snow?”

“No,” Penelope answered with a bat of her eyelashes, “but we have to stop meeting like this, or people are going to talk.”

His mouth tightened even more, with fine lines appearing in the tanned skin around the edges. They reminded Penelope of cracks in the bed of a dry lake.

“As I am sure you are aware, here at Purgatory, Inc., we routinely monitor calls for quality assurance…”

“Oh, yes, absolutely. I understand I have a lovely speaking voice—like a throaty nightingale with just a touch of Barbara Streisand thrown in for good measure.”

“Yes,” he cleared his throat, “well, as you may also be aware, the company changed hands last week and we became a holding of the HELL Corp.”

“Oh, absolutely,” Penelope nodded enthusiastically, tapping a French tipped nail on his desk, “I read through the entire email you sent out —although I did find the part about how the souls of everyone that fell under the HELL Corp. umbrella now belonged to Satan a little vague.”

She was rewarded with a frown, and he moved on to review his notes.

“During a recent monitoring session,” he looked up at her for a moment, “there were…a few…concerns raised about the manner in which you’ve been greeting callers.”

“Really?” Penelope raised her eyebrows and crossed a pair of long legs. “Because, when I was hired, the training team said it was okay to play around with the script—mix it up a little, improvise to keep things fresh—you know, the human touch.”

“Yes, but, Ms. Snow, I think they meant something a little different.”

“How so?”

“Well, for example: It’s a great day at instead of thank you for calling, or how can I assist you instead of how may I help you.”

“Oh, no,” Penelope pursed her lips, “I don’t think that’s what the training department meant, at all. It still sounds far too contrived—I mean, we’re working in a call center, not for the Gestapo, right?”

“Ms. Snow,” he sighed, leaning back in his chair, ” if you value your job, we need to find some sort of middle ground here to keep the chain of command satisfied. Hi, you’ve reached Hell and what can Satan and I do for you today just don’t convey the right image for the HELL Corp.”

“Too gentle?” she asked.


“Would you like me to sex it up a little?”


“Do you want me to talk to Satan? I’d be more than happy to explain my personal position on full disclosure.”

“Oh, dear God, no,” he said, the tie around his neck bursting into flames.

“Well,” Penelope smiled sweetly, uncrossing her legs,”If you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to the phones. And, word to the wise, you probably shouldn’t be mentioning His name around here, now that we’re under new management.”

“Ms. Snow,” the man sighed, batting out the flames, “I have no idea what I’m going to do with you.”

“You could always fire me,” she offered. “Although, I suppose that would make the terms of your email null and void.”