Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Laura James Week 179: The Retreat (Part 1)

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Laura James’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: The Retreat (Part 1)

Todd finished packing his rucksack and hefted it onto his shoulders. It had been the most expensive one in the shop and despite the weight was comfortable on his shoulders. Dropping it back to the floor he picked up his walking boots, again a new purchase and the most expensive pair he could buy. The company was sending him on a retreat and he wanted to make sure he looked the part even if he didn't feel it.

Pulling on a new waterproof jacket he lifted the rucksack and made his way out the door. He was joining his colleagues at the office where a mini bus was to take them to north to the hotel. The drive to the office was uneventful and it gave him the chance to go over his plan for the weekend. He was new to the team and hadn't really gotten to know anyone. They were a close nit group and he had struggled to fit in, the fact that he was around twenty years there junior didn't help.

The company had been recently taken over and everyone was worried about their jobs. He had been brought in to assess the team and make recommendations for redundancy and he had his suspicions that they knew this. This weekend he had to allay their fears, he would be polite, courteous and above all defer to them at all times. He would convince them that he wasn't there as a company spy but as a guy ready to get stuck in, to help do what was needed to keep everyone together.

He had deliberately timed his arrival to ensure he would be the last one on the bus, his bag was placed with the others and he jumped up next to the driver. "Morning everyone, sorry I was late. Hope it didn't hold things up too much."

The group sitting behind him muttered various murmurings of welcome but Todd got the distinct impression that if he had been even a few minutes later then they would have left without him. Turning to the front he did a small drum roll on the dashboard, "Let's get this show on the road."

He spent the journey in silence listening the conversations behind him. Nothing of note was said, they all seemed genuinely keen to explore the outdoors and bond ass a group. Of course the fact that he wasn't asked for his opinion on the weekend meant he was once again excluded. Todd wasn't worried, by the end of the weekend he would have the trust of the team and by the end of the following week he would be able to make his recommendations to the company directors.

After they had all been allocated their rooms, they met in the reception room and were welcomed with coffee, croissants and the fake smile of their host for the weekend.

"My name is Bill and this weekend is all about you." Todd watched as several of his colleagues rolled their eyes. Bill continued "First off, enjoy the refreshments and I'll allocate you your groups." Bill walked amongst them giving each a number. Todd noticed he had been allocated the number two, same as Joan, Mary and Frank, the three who were on the top of his hit list. Someone at the company wasn't playing fair and didn't trust him to make the right decisions.

He drank his coffee as Bill explained their first task. They had to hike through the woods behind the hotel, following various markers until they found the 'treasure'. There would be no opportunity to cheat as each group were following a different path.Once they had obtained it they had to make there way back to the hotel by whatever route they could find. The purpose was to develop trust between them, allowing them to function better as a team. Todd sighed inwardly, his team was destined to fail. A smoker, a self confessed chocoholic and a bully did not a good team make.

Making the best of it Todd corralled his team together after collecting the first set of instructions, "Come on guys this will be fun. Mary what do think our first step should be?" Deferring to her was the smart move as Mary, the office bully, smiled and snatched the instructions from his hand. "Well this looks like it will take us all day, Joan why don't you scrounge up a lunch from the kitchen. And for god's sake, easy on the chocolate."

"I'll give you a hand." Frank and Joan headed to the hotel kitchen allow with some members of the other teams, leaving Mary and Todd alone.

"I don't trust you Todd and this weekend won't change that."

Todd shrugged, "I'm only here to do my job, there's no interior motive." He saw that she didn't believe him but had faith that the end of the weekend he would win her over. He would give her the same chance as everyone else but if she were unwilling to give him one, then she would be the first to go whether she deserved it or not.

The others soon returned and Todd volunteered to carry the supplies, thus cementing his role as subordinate. Frank seemed grateful and Joan gave him a smile and a conspiratorial wink as she tucked a small packet of M&M’s into her pocket. They set off with Mary striding a heading and the rest following, Todd knew Joan would struggle to keep up with the current pace but held his tongue, now was not the time to rock the boat.


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Based in Dunfermline, Scotland, Laura is obsessed with all things horror and spends her time writing flash fiction which she hopes, on occasion, really scares her readers. Feel free to stalk her on twitter, @lejamez


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