When the file folder hit the floor, Caroline Brister had three thoughts.
Her third thought: They didn't pay her enough to care about putting the file back together in proper order.
Her second thought: She'd dropped the folder because her hand had stopped working.
Her first thought: The splattering of the papers on the floor, the arc and fan of the invoices and envelopes and depositions reminded her of red and black blood sprays on the wall, which reminded her of Rorschach inkblots. It's a puppy! It's a flower! It's the guy from Accounting's brains! (your rhythm goes off in the last sentence. Read it aloud. It should be "it's the brains of the guy in Accounting")
The second thought stuck. Her left hand had stopped working. She looked at it. Ratty fingernails, wedding and engagement rings, and a scar from when she'd had a cyst removed. She couldn't feel it. Caroline tried wiggling her fingers. Nothing.
Well, this was odd.
A gentle knock at the door. Why would anyone knock on the door of the company file room? She glanced at the empty file folder cabinet.
"Hello, Caroline? Can I talk to you for a minute?" It was the head of Human Resources, Beth Something. Beth came into the room, closing the door softly behind her. "Oh, what happened here?"
Beth would have tried to smarm her way out. She would have identified the predicament of a disgruntled office shooter, and looked for a solution that was amicable to everyone.
"Let me help you with that," Beth said, stooping down to pick up the one piece of paper that was next to her. Her good deed for the day done, Beth straightened up and pushed a stray hair back into its shell-shiny helmet. (oh yes!)
"The agency told me... about your... situation. It must have been very traumatic for you."
The "situation". The "event". The "tragedy". No one ever said "slaughter". No one said "twenty-six people in an office and only one emerged alive." (this is good exposition)
"If there's anything we can do to help, just let us know." Beth smiled and twisted the gold rope necklace she wore.
Caroline thought to actually take her up on it. She'd ask to change her hours so she could take an earlier bus back to the apartment and get home at a reasonable time. But Caroline knew Beth would sigh and say that the company had standards to which it must adhere. There were a number of actual employees who would love to change their hours. If Beth allowed Caroline, who was just a temp, to change her hours, it would be a slippery slope. And so on.
"I'm doing fine, but thank you for the offer," Caroline smiled.
"Well, okay then." Beth turned towards the door. "Have a good rest of the day."
Beth wouldn't try to talk her way out of being shot. She'd push other people out of the way to get to the exit.
The temporary agency had told Caroline that the position was for a legal assistant. However, something had been lost in translation. "Legal assistant" actually meant "trained monkey."
Caroline photocopied. She photocopied thick stacks of documents, some on legal sized paper (so she'd have to stop and change the paper size), some stapled together with tiny staples she didn't see until the copier had jammed and crumpled up the document into an ugly fan, like she imagined a headache to look. She had to use the copier access code of the secretary for whom she was doing the work.
Caroline filed. Each floor's file room was tucked in the corner of the floor with the pop machine, the snack machine and a printer that no one used until the toner was just about out, and then everyone used it. Occasionally she would hear the bang bang bang of people upset that their Doritos were stuck in the curled wires of the machine. Many of them would swear.
John McKinley had sworn, though not for as long as the Dorito people usually did. "What the fuck is going -" was what he'd managed to get out before Tom had shot him.
Then, he'd switched to screaming.
"Most of these were here when I started," Blaine said as they regarded the file room on the 17th floor, "fifteen years ago." She shuddered.
Blaine was Caroline's supervisor at the company. She was Director of Records Management - inputting new clients in the computer system, running conflict checks, sending old files to off site storage. Blaine would have taken one look at the shooter, said "go ahead" and gone back to her coffee. Caroline liked Blaine.
This works. It's consistent voice that gives backstory in a way that meshes well with what's going on. It gives us a sense of character. Hell yes I'd be reading more.