CHAPTER THREE: BOSS MAN
09/06/30 :: 8:59 AM
There’s that feeling of the bottom dropping out from under you when an elevator stops. Like not all of your parts stop moving down at the same time. It’s probably the most vivid reminder that the human body is just a sack of liquid. The elevator stops and your innards blob like a water balloon dropped prematurely without enough force to burst.
The elevator doors slide open and I encounter Boss Man’s secretary. I tell her I need to see him, it’s something urgent. She lets me in and he gets to fussing around with his laptop like he’s hiding something. I don’t know, wanting to look busy, or maybe he was jerking it at the computer. No way to be sure.
Boss Man looks like the rest of the G.I. Joes but he’s younger than me, which gives the sensation that he’s kissed ass or paid up to the right people. You don’t become master of this kind of operation at thirty years old without blowing somebody. Figurative, literal, or otherwise.
“Jesus Christ, Anders, what the hell is it? I thought I had you on that protest march in Omaha. Don’t tell me you got something already? Can’t you see we’re in a crisis here?”
“No, sir, well, yes, sir. Not exactly,” I reply dumbly. “But I followed some leads and found something. You’ll want to see this. I suspect it is related to the system failure.”
“Why come all the way down here to Level 28 in the middle of a crash? We’ve only just gotten basic power back up, computers are still rebooting, but they won’t have eyes outside for several more hours. We’re locked in, literally and technologically, what could possibly be so important you had to show it to me right this minute?”
“Trust me, sir, just watch the feed.”
I hand him the portable drive and he jacks it into his laptop and waits. The video plays. The scraggily little bastard saying, “I know you’re out there.” The whole bit plays and Boss Man patiently closes the video, places the drive back on the desk, folds his hands and says calmly, “You were right in bringing this to me. Something new is going on here. RITA will be coming back on line momentarily, but she won’t have internet access, and none of our people will be able to get any live feed on a mouse fart for the rest of the day. Still, for your uses, you should be able to get right to work. Databases, video files, statistics, and records should be available in the next twenty. I want you to hang up your other projects. This is your priority now. I want you to find everything you can on this character. I mean everything, go back to the beginning. Do what you do best, right? I mean, they don’t call you The Shrink for nothing. You’re the best I got at character assassination. I mean, whoops, analysis. I want names, associations, addresses, drugs he’s taken, schools he’s attended, girls he’s humped, the works. Got me, workman?”
“Yes, sir, I’ll go straightaway,” I reply, turning to leave.
“Anders,” Boss Man says, “Forgetting something? I don’t want you thinking you can clutter up my office any time you find something with a little intrigue.”
He holds up the drive like he just found a used condom in my desk or a porn rag or some goddamn thing. The smarmy little shit. I take it sheepishly and hop back on the elevator. I sigh, muttering under my breath, “Don’t think you can clutter up my office. Anders. Anders. Anders. This is your priority.”
Looking down at the palm of my left hand, there’s the portable drive, sitting there ominous and lightweight all at once. Contradicting itself without doing anything at all. Funny the way we add meaning to things and then get mad at them when we don’t like what they have to say. I almost throw it against the heavy metal elevator doors. Instead, I just let out a long funnel of air and say, “This is my priority. Joe Vagrant. Who are you, Joe?”
The doors open and I walk on heavy feet back to my cubicle.