Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Fourth excerpt:

That week I spent some of Carl's money and signed up at a gym. Registered with more temp agencies. Checked out want ads and sent out a few resumes. All good stuff.

So I was eating lunch Friday afternoon, feeling like I was finally making some progress. The phone rang and I snagged it.

"Hello. Dennis speaking."

"Do you recognize my voice?"

Hard to forget. "I think so. How clandestine is this phone call?"

"Medium." He sounded amused. "I want to talk to you. Go check your mail." Click.

On the one hand I was curious. On the other hand, screw him. I took another bite of my sub.

Fifteen minutes later the phone rang again. I reached for it, and then waited. It rang twice more and I picked it up. "Hello. Dennis speaking."

"You haven't yet checked your mail."

"I was eating lunch. You're Greyghost, right?"

He paused. "I'm sorry to bother you. There is something I want to discuss. Will you meet with me?"

Did I just make a superhero back down? "Sure. I'll go now."

"Good." He hung up. So I guess he didn't back down too much.

I only partially realized it at the time, but I had just come up with Dennis's First Rule of Dealing with Superheroes: Don't let them bulldoze you. You have to push back and make room for yourself in the conversation. Even if you have to smart off at them a bit. Not getting everything their way keeps them honest.

I locked the apartment up and took the elevator downstairs to the mailbox area. There was a note visible in the 908 slot and I retrieved it. It said '1007'. That's it? Ten-oh-seven? Must mean apartment 1007. Right?

A minute later I was on the tenth floor. There was a glint of light visible through 1007's peephole, so nobody was standing right behind the door. I tried the knob, gently. Open.

No sneaking around. I bounced the door open and stepped in. The apartment was much like Ron's and mine, only unfurnished. There was a man standing opposite the door. I figured he had to be Greyghost since he was dressed head to toe in dark grey, including cape and mask. He looked silly. And then again . . . he didn't.

I closed the door behind me. What the hell was I doing there? I'm alone in an empty apartment with a guy who puts on a mask and punches people out.

"Sit down," he said, and sat on the floor. As incongruous as he looked before, he was even more so now. I sat opposite him, not too close. "When we met the other night, you said that one reason you were doing Carl a favor was that you needed money. Why do you need money?"

"I'm fresh out of school and new to the city. I haven't found a job yet."

"So. You know Carl worked for me."

"I figured. He never said anything about it."

"Mm. I need to hire someone to replace him."

Should I have been expecting this? "You mean me? Just like that?"

"Not just like that. This is a job interview."

I sat back. Apparently it's not what you know, it's who you know. "Describe the job. I'm not wearing a costume and I can't shoot lightning bolts out of my ass."

"Some office work. Some errands like the one you did for Carl. Some miscellaneous. Danger kept to a minimum."

It was hard talking to this guy. You couldn't look him in the eye, because you couldn't see his eyes. "What was in that briefcase, anyway?"

He indicated his cloak and mask in response. "Do you want the job?"

I closed my eyes so I could think. It'd be intriguing work; no question. And opportunities like this don't come along every day. And I did need the money. I couldn't come up with a reason why not. Except . . .

In high school, I wasn't the best student, but my marks were high enough to qualify me for some fairly regular asskickings from my less academically oriented classmates. This experience turned me off on people who intentionally get into fights, a category which included Greyghost. Say what you want about his motives; I couldn't shake the feeling that he wasn't my kind of guy. But that's not enough of a reason to say no to a job like this. (Probably.) "Yes, I do."

He nodded, once. "You understand the kind of work I do."

Do I? "Loosely."

"You understand that lives depend on it? Sometimes thousands or millions of lives?"

"Yes." I needed to read more about this superhero crap. What millions of lives?

"Then consider these questions. If you worked for me, would I be able to trust you, and would I be able to rely on you? Don't answer for thirty seconds."

Hmm. It was quite a stretch to imagine thousands of lives depending on anything I did. Look at it the other way, though: would I rather they depended on something somebody else did? No. "Yes, to both questions," I said.

"Good. The job is yours if you want it."

Just like that? "Just like that? How do you know you can trust me? I could be lying through my teeth over here."

"Just like that. And I know everything I need to know."

Like hell. "All right . . . what about salary?"

"Fifty thousand dollars a year, and benefits. Is that satisfactory?"

Jesus H. Kool-Aid. Well, if I had any doubts before about this job, they were gone now. "I accept."

We stood and shook hands. "Good," he said. "Meet me at 771 Watersound Terrace at seven o'clock tonight and we can get started."

"I'll be there," I assured him, and left. I don't know where he went.

I didn't expect finding a job to make me so happy. I felt like I could do things now, where I couldn't before. I felt like . . . I don't know. Good, anyhow. In some way that related to the future.

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