Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Here's the problem with this job. You're either really busy, or you're sitting around playing Minesweeper while the cobwebs form between your head and the lamp. Anyone curious about the relative proportions of these two states need only know one thing: after my first two days I had already knocked Carl's name out of the Best Times list in Minesweeper.

Therefore this journal. No doubt Greyghost and Cruickshank would turn pale and cling to the wall for support if they knew I was posting any of this online, but I don't care. I've got the journalling thing set to 'private', so it should be safe. At least I think I do. Anyway, if I can change the way I spend my time at work from:

5 % - do something really interesting and allegedly important
95 % - count fibers in office carpet


5 % - do something really interesting and allegedly important
5 % - type up interesting and allegedly important thing
90 % - count fibers in office carpet

then I'm twice as well off as I was before.

I'm exhausted. I was in here from yesterday evening until ten in the morning filing and crossreferencing a ton of forensic crap that Greyghost had shipped in from Africa. (Believe me when I say that after the first six hours it all starts to blend together in your mind.) So I ran a couple of errands, went home, and was in bed by noon.

Three-thirty my pager goes off. I peel my eyes open and call the man. "You need to go to the bank for me. A courier is arriving at your building with information from Cruickshank. This must be completed by quarter after four." He hung up. I didn't even get a word in.

Five minutes later I'm in a cab heading across town to some Finnish trust company. I've got bedhead, I'm wearing an old T-shirt and shorts, no socks, and my sneakers are on the wrong feet. And I'm frantically reading the sheaf of couriered stuff to try and make sense of what I'm supposed to do.

At the bank. I say I've got an appointment with Mr. Wong, because, well, according to Cruickshank that's exactly what I've got. The entire place is looking at me, basically because I look like I've just fallen out of a tree.

Mr. Wong beckons me into his office at three-fifty. Now I have to tell him a string of lies, which I always hate. I mean, he seems like an okay guy. He's got pictures of his family on the desk. He's got a plastic smurf wearing a mortarboard sitting on the filing cabinet. Why am I filling his ears with BS?

"My name is John Caruthers. I'm confidential secretary to a man named Dieter Solarin. He has instructed me to open an account at your bank that fits these conditions." I handed him a piece of paper. "Mr. Solarin requires this immediately."

Mr. Wong looked first at the paper, then at the pizza stain on my T-shirt. I am too a confidential secretary! Named John Caruthers!

"I'm afraid we'd need Mr. Solarin to come in himself to arrange such an account," he said, handing the sheet of paper back. Dammit, why wasn't Cruickshank handling this instead of me? It's exactly what he gets paid for.

"I have the authority to sign anything on his behalf," I argued.

"If it's going to be his name on the account, and he's going to be approving these... unusual accesses to his funds, we would insist on speaking to him ourselves."

And then my cellphone rang. Ingrid's ring. That's the other problem with this job - there's nobody who has my cellphone number whose call I don't have to take right away, no matter what. I held up my hand in apology to Mr. Wong and answered it, saying "I can't talk right now."

"Why? Where are you?"

"The bank. I have this--"

"Oh, right, the Solarin thing." Because she knows more about it than I do. Of course. "Look, I have to get ready for tonight, so could you pick my cat up from the vet?"

"I don't know. Maybe. Look--"

"Write this down." She dictated the vet's name and address, the cat's name and condition, the phone number, and some other instructions. "Have you got all that?"

"Yeah." It was on the back of a page I tore out of Mr. Wong's Dilbert desk calendar, which was the only blank thing I could reach in a hurry. Tomorrow's page, unfortunately. Sorry, buddy.

"Repeat it back to me."

I did, and if Mr. Wong raised his eyebrows when I got to the part about "Popeye. Diarrhea," who could blame him?

"That's it. Thanks, Dennis. I'll see you tomorrow."

I clicked off the phone. "I'm sorry about that. Now, I--"

He interrupted. "Mr.... Caruthers? I'm sorry, but I don't think I can help you. Perhaps you should try another bank."

According to Cruickshank it had to be this bank. Fortunately he had left me somewhat prepared for this--there was a sealed envelope I was supposed to give to Mr. Wong if he wouldn't go for it. I pulled it out of the courier package and handed it to him.

"What is this?"

"Open it," I said.

He did, and pulled out a letter. I couldn't read it, but I recognized one of Cruickshank's signatures at the bottom. (He has three, and switches between them depending on the situation.) Mr. Wong's eyebrows went up again. "There won't be... any problems, sir," he said, getting out some forms.

As I was filling them out, I could see Mr. Wong gazing at me intently. By the time I was finished he had succeeded in completely creeping me out. But everything went smoothly. He didn't even look at the fake Caruthers ID I found in the courier package. The account was open a couple of minutes before four-fifteen and I got up to go retrieve Popeye before the vet's office closed.

On my way out Mr. Wong called me back. "Sir, if you don't mind my asking?"

"No, what is it?"

He paused, and looked uncomfortable. I drifted back to his desk a little so he could lower his voice. "What was... she... like in bed, sir?"

I said the first thing that came to mind. "Sly, inventive, and a little sad."

He sat back down behind his desk, wide-eyed and nodding. I wonder who I was talking about? Clearly I have to spend more time as John Caruthers. Name's got a ring to it, too.
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