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Last Edited on 1 September, 2004 @ 4:06 pm
  Last Messed With On : Tuesday, 25 March, 2014 21:36


 

An "Un-Remarkable Girl"

        by dj otterson

Part Three -- Trouble in Paradise?








     The job Randy took me to was in a parking garage shared by, and connected to, a pair of buildings that   employed (in his words), "high tech nerds with expensive cars." The guy we relieved looked worried when he saw Randy coming, hadn't heard that his replacement had quit the day before. We walked around and met a couple high tech security guys in a little office at a security-controlled door at the far end of one building's causeway, and a couple red eyed computer guys in a similar office at a checkpoint in the second building. There was one nervous looking computer woman we escorted to her car. She appeared happy to see me. She took Randy aside and they talked for five minutes. Then we had to find a time clock for one of our check-in exercises. The garage itself had five time clocks that had to be punched a couple times each on an eight hour shift. (I could 'hang out' at the station that controlled the steel reinforced garage door that locked everyone in (or out) all night, but without log entries within five minutes of clock times to prove that I had to let their employees in or out, I wouldn't last long.) I think the high point of the first couple hours was when I asked him if there were route sheets for all the various jobs the agency covered. ("Yeah- but most of them need heavy updating- We keep telling Fred- but he has a hard time telling his secretary that he needs her to actually do any work-") We also agreed that it was a good thing that the gadgets that  came with the new computer didn't have to be installed everywhere we had one of these time clocks. The main relay actually went between the gizmo in the shift supervisor's office and the computer. (The Shift Supervisor sat in Fred's Office. Fred was such a trusting soul he had three cameras videotaping everything that happened in his office whenever he wasn't there.)
     After the second time he caught me yawning, Randy grinned, shrugged, "Yeah, well you basically know everything about this job- here-" he tossed me the keys to his 'vehicle', "Fred wants us to double talk him into believing he can't possibly figure out the new computer at about Noon- catch some sleep- we don't want you so tired you tell him how easy it is- It's our sworn duty to convince the people who want to be bosses that they're hopelessly inept when it comes to computers. Okay?"
     I nodded.
     "I'll sit down at his computer and email you all the route sheets- then I'll come in and we can go over  the updates while Fred gives Lesley her afternoon 'dictation'."
     I raised my eyebrows. 
     Randy laughed, "There's a blanket in the back seat if you need it. Front seats recline rather nicely," he saluted and pointed somewhere with a question in his eyes.
     "Um, time clock number two?"
     He nodded, pointed the other way.
     I probably blushed as I shrugged.
     "Most important room in the place- The bathroom." he headed for the time clock.
     The vehicle's bucket seat was almost as comfortable as the recliner. I think I knew he checked on me a couple times and when he woke me up I could see grey light outside where charcoal darkness had been.
     "Hey, you made it through your first night on the job- almost died of boredom- that's a good sign," he turned the key, brought his engine into the controlled explosions that quietly run most of our lives. "Geoff should be trying to second guess your breakfast order about now-"
     We spun through the minor maze that led down and out of the parking garage. I folded the blanket and carefully tossed it back where I found it. Randy's eyes darted back and forth between the rear view mirror and the world beyond the windshield. Somehow I knew that he approved of the way I took care of his blanket. I got the feeling it was important to him that people respect each other's property as well as their right to be as quirky as they wanted to be- If I tossed the blanket back all crumpled up he would have winced and never said anything. But I would have fallen from his list of people worth knowing.

     I started for the stairs as soon as we were 'home'.
 "Aren't you going to eat first?" Randy sounded shocked.
     "I thought I'd see if Angela was hungry-"
     "No one here has ever seen Angela function before noon- Unless she's still up from the night before-"
     I shrugged- continued toward the stairs-
     "If she's up, she's in the restaurant-"
     I turned around and followed Randy into the restaurant.
     No Angela. I headed for the door-
     Randy held his hand up, then reached for the phone behind the counter- dialed a number and waited through her answering message, "I don't know what you fed this guy, but he can't wait to get up there- He's trying to tell me he wants to see if you're hungry- what? you're awake?- yeah- he's right here-" he handed me the phone.
     "Hi-"
     "You really were heading right up here? No shit?"
     "Yeah- Randy stopped me, said if you were awake you'd be in the restaurant."
     "So, you really don't think I made a complete fool of myself? You actually want to know me?"
     "Yeah," I nodded, "You hungry? Coming down?"
     "I-uh- I need a shower first- I can't come down like this, I've- I mean, it'd take too long, you go ahead and eat-"
     "Want me to get us both something to go- we can take the shower together-"
     "I don't want you to see me like this."
     "Like what?"
     "I've been crying all night."
     "Why?"
     "Because I was sure you'd never want to see me again- I figure I did all the right things, but too soon-"
     I nodded, "Want me to bring you up breakfast for two anyway? Go splash cold water on your face, you'll look fine-"
     "I don't-"
     "Okay- imagine we've known each other for six months, a year- you're probably going to cry now and then- what'cha gonna do? Lock yourself in the bathroom every time?"
     "No-" the silence was thick.
     "Should I pretend last night never happened?"
     "Yes- No- I don't know-"
     I sighed, it was like time to flip a coin, should I shrug her off and eat with the guys or not? "After you  told me to come right up to your room when I got home, I haven't been able to think about anything but that all night-" 
     "No?"
     I shrugged, "No-"
     "You really want to come up and see me?"
     "Yes."
     Silence, "Okay-"
     "What would you like for breakfast?"
     She sighed, "I don't usually eat breakfast- What are you having?"
     I blinked, gazed toward Geoff in his apron, standing there with a clueless grin- "Eggs I guess?"
     "Do you eat a lot of eggs? That isn't healthy, ya know? I want to keep you around-"
     I laughed to myself, "Ya think I should have oatmeal instead?"
     Geoff grinned and went toward the stove-
     "Yes- Oatmeal and some kind of brown bread toast-?"
     "Same for you?"
     "Yeah I guess so-"
     "Coffee? Juice?"
     "Okay-" she sighed, "I'll unlock the door and run into the bathroom- Are you serious about taking a shower together?"
     "Yes- If you're game-"
     "Are you kidding? I can't wait-"
     "Okay- See you in the time it takes to gather the stuff and get there-"
     "All right-"
     I got the idea that she was waiting to hear something, "Okay- see you soon-"
     "Okay-"
     I hung up.
     Randy came back from the bathroom, he took one look at me and shook his head.
     "She's having a minor melt down-"
     "Only minor?" he laughed as he yawned into his hand.
     I shrugged.
     "Two bowls of oatmeal and two orders of wheat toast?" Geoff asked, "To go?"
     I nodded, feeling sheepish, "You going to let me pay this time?"
     "No-" Geoff looked thoughtful, "We'll figure it into your rent- Until Friday you're my guest-"
     I wondered how he could stay in business, doing things like that. But I decided not to argue, "Coffee and juice with that?"

     Geoff had everything packed inside those locking styrofoam take-out food things. (Coffee and juice were in styrofoam cups with lids. Cream in creamers, Powdered non-dairy creamers for Angela. Milk for my oatmeal in another styrofoam cup- "Angela doesn't 'do' milk in oatmeal-" Geoff had said, looking like he kept notes on other people's quirks.
     I climbed two flights of stairs grinning to myself, musing over Randy's expression as I'd backed through the door into the building from the restaurant. I wondered if he thought I was a traitor to my sex for bringing breakfast in bed to Angela after one 'date'. But his grin had more of a 'you'll learn-' quality to it.
     As soon as I negotiated my way through the door to the third floor, a young girl in a skirt and sweater took a look at me and ran somewhere.
     I was about to knock on Angela's door when she opened it- dressed in a flannel bathrobe with a white towel wound around her head and fuzzy blue slippers on her feet. Her face was very pink, as if maybe she'd just scrubbed it.
     "Woa-" I grinned, "You must be the roommate- Angela hiding in the bathroom?"
     She looked like she wanted to appear exasperated with me, blushed, shook her head and took the tray  full of food from me and headed for the breakfast nook, "That funny smell is the dishwasher-" she turned her head to make a face, "That's Janice's territory- I made the mistake of opening it to hide the dishes that were on the table-"
     Stale dishwater has a distinctive smell- I remembered thinking something had died in a friend's apartment- Nope, the dishwasher had died. That might have been worse.
     She noticed my unhappy face, hovered near the table- "It is kind of bad, isn't it? I know-" She walked around me, back to the living room, walked around her two dimensional castle and into the hexagonal area that looked like a greenhouse (two huge, cascading ivy plants, a couple things that looked like potted trees and a lot of strange leafy things- she had a good sized 'coffee table' on a thick beige rug. Two cats ran out from behind the curtains of ivy when she set the tray down.)
     We sat on the floor, across from each other.
     She grinned, "This is fun- I finally got a boy to play house with me-" her face clouded over, I could swear she played her own words back to herself, "Does that sound weird or what?"
     I shrugged, "Sounds honest, that's important to me-"
     She nodded with her head half tipped to one side, "I get that feeling from you- that it's safe to be me? I don't have to worry about how you're going to take anything? Okay- so I've wanted that with everybody I've been with? And never got it? I mean- it's like they'll say whatever they think I want to hear and then go ahead and- like a truck- just roll right over me and do things their way? And when they think I'm hooked? I mean even the women I've loved- just shrug off my complaints, with either, [whiningly plaintive] 'Well, that's the just way I am....' or [husky voice] 'you're just gonna haveta get used to it, babe-'... And then they blame me for becoming 'distant' and 'unavailable'. I mean, do I look like a doormat?"
     I shook my head, grabbed one of the styrofoam boxes, "I think these are both the same.-"
     She blinked, shrugged, opened the box in front of her, "What was I saying?"
     Maybe I rolled my eyes, I don't think so, I stared at the ceiling through my eyelids, "You want to trust me, you want to believe you can be yourself, but everybody you've ever loved kind of believes in the 'promise her anything, then act like a steamroller' approach?"
     She shuddered.
     I shrugged, "I never would have guessed you were Jewish-"
     Her eyes almost crossed, "Is that a problem?"
     I shook my head, the oatmeal was still warm and I think Geoff had warmed the milk-, "No- We had a fire in our house when I was like, in sixth grade and my sister was in fourth? We had to move in with our grandparents and stuff, but we kept going to the same school? Somebody gave us a ride in the morning and somebody else gave us a ride home after school? My father was a fireman? He had a really weird schedule? Most days he was doing the dirty work of 'gutting' the upstairs? -pulling out all the burned up wood and stuff? We ate with him most days. But when he had to work at the Fire House- Um, a couple times we had lunch at my sister's friend's house?" I shrugged, "They were Jewish? At first, before we went there? I was afraid the house would be all dark and weird and I was afraid they'd have some kind of bizarre rituals or something?" -shrugged again, "Nope- Their house was nice and bright and airy and we ate grilled cheese and tomato soup and didn't sacrifice anybody's pet dog or paint anybody's little sister with blood on her forehead or anything..."
     Angela laughed, then, "Hey wait a minute, what was their name, I'm going to turn them in for not boiling babies and killing pets-"
     "Ekber-" I said.
     "That's their name? Not Ek-bird or Ek-hardt or anything?"
     I must have looked strange, she laughed, "You look so freakin serious!" shook her head, "We only sacrifice puppies and little sisters on odd holidays that I can't even remember. We've become so freakin enlightened these days- Hell, we even let women go to college, as long as they promise that they're only there to snag a Doctor or Lawyer for a husband..." She laughed so hard she almost fell over, then shook her head and sobered, much too quickly, "I don't know why that's so funny all of a sudden."
     Shrug, "Maybe it's been gnawing at you and you didn't pay it enough attention?"
     "You're scary- were you born able to read my mind or what?"
     Shrug, "I don't remember any angels telling me I'd meet you and fall in love or anything."
     She sampled her second spoonful of oatmeal, nodded with the spoon in her mouth, "Those little guys with horns? Are they angels?" she started laughing almost out of control again, caught her breath, "Did you guys get high? I'm pretty sure Randy doesn't smoke- but- is this a contact high or am I losing my mind?"
     I shook my head, "Losing your heart? or gaining mine?"
     "Did we switch hearts last night?"
     I shrugged again.
     She ate another spoonful of oatmeal, grinned and stared away at nothing, then turned her head (and focused her eyes) toward me, shrugged, almost whispered, "You really want me? you really like me?"
     I sighed, shrugged, nodded, tried to look reluctant, "Yeah-" 
     The caught her spoon when she threw it at me.
     She raised her eyebrows, "Wow, good reflexes, too-" she tipped her head and batted her eyelashes, "Can 
     I have my spoon back, sir?"
     I growled at her.
     She shivered.
     "Do me a favor? Don't call me 'sir'?"
     She raised her eyebrows, "You don't like authority figures either? Or did somebody tell you that was one of my weaknesses?"
     "Weakness? You think not trusting authority figures is a weakness?"
     She giggled and shook her head, "You're beginning to look too good to be true and that's scary-"
     I sighed, "OH no- she's going to put me through the wringer and when she finally drives me nuts she's going to say "see- I told you so-" but she'll never believe me when I tell her that was a self fulfilling prophesy-"
     "If you're some kind of demon, I'm in trouble-" she smiled, "Hurry up and eat, then lets take that shower-"
     We washed each other's hair in the shower and raced to the bedroom in our towels and- well, it feels like kiss and tell, but I felt like I'd never really loved anybody before.
     And then the phone rang, I heard Angela's silly answering message and then Randy's voice, "Okay, love birds- We've got an hour before Fred expects us to blow him away with big words and high tech jargon and 
     Geoff's got a turkey sandwich and a cup of coffee with your name on it down here on the counter..."
     I pried one eye open and focused on Angela. She covered her mouth with a towel and groaned, "Okay with you if I don't get up?"
     I sat up, nodded, "Want me to come back here when I'm through playing computer geek?"
     She looked like she was astounded that I'd ask such a thing? "You want to?"
     I nodded, "Yeah-"
     She dropped the towel and dove at me, knocked me down and kissed me, then rolled over onto her back and almost pulled me with her- We rolled over a couple more times and I had my arms around her tight enough so I worried about cutting off her ability to breath and slacked off-
     "Wow," she licked her lips, "A couple more of those and I'll think you're falling in love with me-"
     I bit my lower lip and raised my eyebrows, "I think- if you said you loved me, I'd worry? I'd probably want to give you the benefit of the doubt- because it's you? But it sure as hell feels like the real thing to me-"
     She nodded, swallowed, nodded some more.
     I started to get up.
     She shivered.
     I pulled the heavier blanket up to her chin and wrapped her pretty tightly.
     She beamed at me.
     "Should I call to make sure you're awake?"
     She winced, "Ask Geoff to make another key and give it to you. Tell him I said so-"
     I took another (quick) shower, dressed in the uniform, went back into her bedroom, guessed she was asleep and almost left-
     "Did you come in here to kiss- Omigod- I'm in love with a nazi- Mom was right- aaaaaaahhhhhh!" she waved her arms around and kicked her legs under the covers.
     I dropped to my knees beside her and leaned forward, avoided her flailing arms and legs and kissed her, 
     "Sweet Dreams-"
     When I stood up, in the room that was just dark enough so her hair almost looked like it was a normal color- with the blanket up to her chin and her eyes looking big and vulnerable- she bit her lip again, "I'm afraid of love, you know that don't you?"
     I nodded, shrugged, felt like Steve McQueen, "Isn't everybody?"
     She grinned, "Don't do anything stupid- You look like a cop, somebody's liable to shoot you-"
     I raised my right hand, "On my honor..."

     Randy looked like he just woke up, holding his head with one hand while the other guided a half of a turkey sandwich to his mouth- He managed to raise one eyebrow, What the hell did you do up there? Sleep? Hell, Im doing something wrong?
     I must have looked confused, "Huh?"
 "Youre all bright eyed and bushy tailed and Im half alive-"
     I laughed, "Im faking it."
     He grinned, nodded, "Cool, I feel better already-"

     Lesley looked at me with a little more caution than she had the day before. I thought she might have been slightly worried that Fred might promote me over her, "You're early-"
     Randy tried to suppress a yawn, "Should we go in there and start messing around, or wait for Fred to invite us in for instructions?"
     Lesley probably would have laughed if I wasn't there, pushed a button, "Randy and Jack are here-"
     "Ahh! They're early, send them in-"
     Randy mock-saluted Lesley.
     She grinned, shook her head like she wished he wouldn't embarrass her in front of somebody she didn't know that well-
     Fred had a manual open on his desk in front of him, "Asynchronous serial protocols versus multiplexing encryption schemes?" he sighed, "okay, you lost me on page one. What does that mean?"
     Randy shrugged and looked at me.
     "A multiplexer is like a conductor who chops pieces of a whole bunch of different trains up and sends all those pieces down the same track with instructions so that another multiplexer at the other end of that track will know which pieces go together so it can break down the single stream into however many integral trains they started out as- it's the kind of baffling stuff that internet packet switchers do a million times a day- Encryption is the codes they-"
     Fred held his hand up, "Okay- I get it. I need a lawyer to figure out how to read legal shit, I need you to figure out this stuff- Whatcha gonna do today?"
     I shrugged, "I thought we were going to run a few tests and make sure everything was working right-"
     Fred held up a print-out, "I figured that out- I've been matching this report against this log- and as close as I can figure it, they're a perfect match- But I can't fire the night supervisor because the damned computer doesn't know how to dial a phone or who to call if somebody doesn't check in on time- and he's my son in law and I don't like the idea of him being home with my daughter all night or out running around with the boys either-" he tossed me the manual.
     I'm not sure, but I think he was surprised that I caught it, "Them Karate lessons must work. My son in law couldn't catch that to save his life-" he lit his cigar, "I called the people we bought that stuff from to ask them how to get it to print out a report. When I read that heading to them they laughed and told me just about exactly what you said. You know your stuff-" he nodded, "how come you ain't makin big bucks working for IBM or one of them?"
     I sighed- "They call it 'burn out' you can only solve so many impossible problems a day before the money just ain't worth it. A friend of mine's out delivering newspapers all over Schuyler County, New York State,  and hopes he never has to look at another computer for the rest of his life-"
     "So you'll do this for me for, what? Fifteen bucks an hour? For how long?"
     I blinked, "I got a new life, I got a new apartment, a new girl friend- everything seems to be falling back into place- You give me days off when you swear on a stack of Bibles you won't call me in unless you absolutely have to and I'm yours for at least two years-"
     "What if this girl friend don't work out? You outta here?"
     I shook my head, "I've lived alone before- I like this area- I said two years, I mean two years at least- unless you decide to fuck me over and then, bye bye-" I waved.
 Fred grinned, nodded, "You wanna stay inside all the time, got enough work here to be inside the office 40 hours a week?"
     I did some quick guessing, added up all the stuff that I'd probably have to do to keep track of Fred's work force, thought of the look Lesley had given me- "You need these reports in the morning when you get here? Are you here like twelve hours a day and your son in law the other twelve?"
     "Are you kidding? He's here eight hours and gone- I'm here from 6 in the morning until ten most nights- And I'm on call all weekend- Whatcha gettin at?"
     "I was thinking I could come in for like four hours in the morning, get all the reports done, go home, come back in for four hours in the evening make sure all that stuff adds up-"
     Fred nodded, "I talked to your ex- supervisor, um, [he picked up a piece of paper] Rodriguez?"
     "Luis-" I grinned.
     Fred nodded, "He told me they found much how much you did after you left- He says you can probably come back any time you want with a nice big raise-"
     I shook my head, "Did he tell you about his boss?"
     Fred grinned, nodded, "Real bastard from what he said- He's looking for a way out himself-"
     I nodded, "Not a fun place to work-"
     "So Mr Rodriguez doesn't think he'd trust you alone with his daughter but he said you were one of the most honest people he's ever worked with-"
     "She's married-" I said.
     Fred grinned and turned his cigar sideways to see if it was still lit. "I made that up-" he rolled the ash in his ashtray, "He did say you were one of the most honest people he ever worked with- almost too honest. The boss asked what you thought about something he'd said at a meeting and you told him- He accused you of playing games and surfing the internet on duty and you told him he could try to do your job any time he wanted?"
     I nodded, "Okay- I might not have perfect judgment went it comes to idiots accusing me of screwing off on the job, but I am honest-"
     Fred grinned, "Okay- you really want to come in at like six in the morning and six at night?"
     "You figure that would be best?"
     "I'm asking you-"
     I sat back and looked at Randy.
     Randy grinned back at me.
     I nodded, "How about we try it that way for a while and if it looks like different hours would be better, we talk that over later?"
     Fred looked like he was deep in thought- "Could you show Lesley how to do those reports and stuff and would you consider working weekends, like say- ten pm to six am Friday night, Saturday morning and the same deal on Saturday night Sunday morning? Then maybe have Monday and Tuesday off- no wait- how about Tuesday and Wednesday off?" Fred frowned, Picked up a piece of paper- "We got a guy who worked here before- who can take over the weekend shift you worked last night, but he can't do Mondays- Could Lesley do most of those reports on Monday Tuesday and Wednesday without me needing to send her to school for a couple years?"
     I shrugged, "Is she good with figures? Is she afraid of computers?"
     "She knows more about computers than I do- made me get her a Mac for the office stuff-"
     I grinned.
     "I asked her if it wasn't a bad idea to get a computer that only like 5% of the offices in this world use and she said, take a look at who those 5% are-" he sighed, shrugged, she's got her Mac and we've had no problems with it- I love listening to my son in law telling me all about the problems they had with their system where he used to work- any time he rubs me the wrong way I can ask him if wants to go back to those idiots and beg for his job back- keeps him in line-" Fred leaned forward and snuffed his cigar out- "So how's that sound? As long as you can train Lesley- we'll figure 8 hours here- Friday and Saturday overnight, Eight hours at the Garage on Sunday overnight, um, What? Wednesday evening 6 to ten? Thursday morning six to ten, evening six to ten, Friday morning six to ten and then Friday night eight hours again? That's forty hours- and as long as Randy doesn't object I'll pay you the same fifteen bucks an hour for the garage over night- Ain't quite as much as he gets for pullin overtime there- but it's better than most of our guards get for the same deal-"
     Randy nodded, "He's worth it- he's got the work ethic- I know he'd be there in a pinch if we needed him- out in the field or in here trying to figure out what went wrong if anything did go wrong with the computer- you might even want to negotiate some kind of troubleshooting and maintenance bonus with him, it'd be a lot cheaper than calling in anybody from the high tech firms- they charge you fifty bucks to change the toner cartridge on the laser printer-"
     Fred nodded, "And ninety bucks for the cartridge-" he glanced at me, "And that's with my supposed 'discount'."
     I nodded.
     Fred sighed, "I was afraid he'd think that was a fair deal- okay-" he leaned forward, pushed a button on his intercom, "Lesley- think you could learn that new Linus computer stuff?"
     "Linus? Oh, Linux- yes- I've been reading up on it-"
     I shrugged, "Most of the commands are the same, and mice clicks are mice clicks in any operating system-"
     "Did you get that?"
     "Yep- I think we got us an employee- The guy who sold us that thing says if this guy ain't much of a teacher he can send somebody over here for a mere thirty five bucks an hour- minimum sixty hours to train ya-"
     "Are you kidding? put that money in a bonus fund, get interest on it and split it with me next Christmas."
     Fred let go of the button long enough to laugh, "How many ways?"
     "He's still listening? Three ways if we have to..."
     Randy leaned forward, cleared his throat.
     "Okay, okay, Randy brought him in, four ways?"
     "And don't you dare tell my son in law anything, when the check comes back from the deposit I'll scribble 'insurance' on it and he won't have a clue-"
     Randy grinned at me, then turned to Fred, "Meanwhile- How about we spend a couple hours shooting reports from that machine to the new one and then a couple more hours updating route sheets and stuff like that?"
     Fred frowned, "Will you be on overtime?"
     Randy shrugged, "It has to be done-"
     Fred frowned, sighed, "Okay- four hours?"

     It took me ten minutes to hook up a null modem set up between the two computers. Lesley watched and said, "Huh- it's that easy?"
     Randy stepped in from Fred's office mid sentence, "Shhhh! Don't use the word 'easy' anywhere near a computer when Fred might hear ya-"
     She giggled, shook her head, pointed into the office with a question in her eyes.
     Randy grinned, "Myra-"
     Lesley smiled, "Things are so much nicer around here when he has a good long talk with Myra-"
     I shook my head and shrugged.
     "Myra's his daughter- she calls and complains about her therapists' bills and they carry on for hours."
     Randy patted Lesley on her back, "Ya wanna know who really runs this place? She gets Fred to call Myra so she can get all the scheduling and over time and all that boring stuff done."
     She shook her head, "So why don't I get paid what I'm worth?"
     "Because Fred couldn't afford what you're worth?"
     She crooked her thumb at me, "And what about him? Jack? Don't tell me you don't know you could walk into almost any one of our customer's personnel offices and walk out with a contract for forty- fifty grand a year?"
     I groaned, "I escaped corporate clutches before- I'm not going back there if I can help it."
     "You wanna be in private security for the rest of your life?"
     "Do you?"
     She glanced toward Fred's office and shook her head, then shrugged, "He's actually not a bad old guy- He leaves me alone, I get to raise my daughter, be there to get her up in the morning and back when she comes home after school and I have enough left over to take a couple courses each semester-"she shook her head, "I don't have the killer instincts to go out on my own anywhere-" shrugged, "I'm in a rut-"
     Randy shook his head, "You look a thousand percent better than you did two years ago."
     She straightened her back, nodded, "Okay- when you put it that way-" she grinned at him, "So how come you're single again?"
     "Ooops-" Randy made a face, "Don't tell me, you have another single girl friend who's got a thing about men in black uniforms."
     She shook her head, "Just tell me how this thing works- and if I make the big jump, you want to work for me? Can I practice checking out your butt and drooling, "Hey, sweetie, looking for a Hyoooooooooge bonus next Christmas?"
     I gasped, "Did Fred say that?"
     They laughed.
     Lesley spoke, "Fred's got his hands full, he works sixteen hours a day out of self defense. Just wait until you meet Delores- I hate to say it, but if I was stuck with someone like her- I'd've high tailed it eons ago-"
     I shrugged.
     "Believe me-" Lesley smiled, "You don't want to know-" 
     Randy sent me the files, we converted them, The three of us were sitting around, reading changes to either me or Lesley as we typed names and times and locations into the new database.
     Fred came in, rubbed his hands together and hovered around us for a while, "How's it working out?"
     Lesley answered, "Looks pretty good so far- a couple funny things happened in the translation- we have to check each file anyway, might as well make the changes we haven't had time to make in the last ten months-"
     Fred pointed to me, "He going to be able to teach you what you need to know?"
     She looked at me and nodded, "He doesn't need seventeen syllable words to describe point and click- we got it under control-"
     Fred grinned, "Watch the phones? I got me an appointment for an oriental massage-"
     Randy and Lesley looked at each other like he'd begun speaking Chinese- "If you know who calls- hell, if anybody calls- There's a problem installing some kind of new gimmicks at one of our sites and I had to go out there to make sure the technicians do what I'm paying them for. I told her about the new computer- She thinks that means she can't go to the Bahamas with her sister next June- Hell- I'll lay off her son in law to save enough money to send her to the Bahamas for a couple weeks- how about the whole damn summer?"
     Lesley giggled.
     Randy grinned.
     "Myra knows, hell, she told me to do it- ya don't have to lie to her-" Fred checked his pocket for cigars, patted it- "I'll be back by 4-"
     The door closed behind him. 
     They stared at it for a couple minutes-
     "Well, that's a first-"
     "You think it's a real massage or that place over near fourteenth street?"
     They looked at each other and shook their heads, "Nah-"
     I laughed, "I think I'm gonna like it here-"
     Lesley nodded, "Hope so- If he feels good enough to leave the office once in a while, this place could be.... decent-"
     We got a lot done by 4.
     Fred asked me if I could do with one day off this week- come in tomorrow and continue showing Lesley what she needed to know.
     I counted on my fingers, "Tomorrow's Wednesday?"
 He looked at a calendar, "So take Thursday off?"
     I shrugged, nodded.
     "Eight to two tomorrow? six hours? I'll pay ya for eight-"
     I blinked and looked at looked at Lesley.
     She shrugged, "Go for it-"
     I nodded, "Okay-"
     Fred yawned and stretched and walked into his office singing to himself, "Lesley? I don't think we need to catch up on anything in here today, do we? You finished for the day? What time does Jessica get home?"
     "Half an hour?" She checked her watch-
     "I liked that bonus idea- I think I'll do it-"
     Lesley grinned at us, "Well, I guess we'll pack up and go home-"
     "Any important calls while I was out?"
     "Not really- Mason's got the flue, Anderson's covering for him."
     "Wasn't that the other way around last week? They got something going on there?"
     "I doubt it- They both have kids, there's something going through the schools this month-"
     "Yeah, that's what you said last week, I almost forgot-"
     Lesley nodded.
     We punched out and said good bye to Fred en masse- he came in and checked the new computer to see if our times registered- grinned from ear to ear, "Good deal-" waved good bye-

     I headed for the restaurant when we entered the apartment building.
     "Woa- you need the key to Angela's, right?"
     I nodded.
     Randy pointed toward the stairs- "Geoff's apartment-"
     I pointed toward the restaurant and shook my head questioningly-
     Randy shook his head and pointed upward again.
     So we sighed and climbed the stairs.
     I opened the door to the second story- 
     Randy yawned, "I've got a midnight shift tonight- hey- I guess I'm picking you up at 7:30 in there- okay?"
     I nodded.
     He saluted, or flipped a couple fingers in something like a salute- then resumed his climb.
     I rang Geoff's door. Twice. Then I knocked. Cheryl opened after the second time I knocked, handed me a key, "Sorry- I forgot about the key- and Geoff's wearing ear plugs-" 
     I grinned, "Did I wake you?"
     She shook her head, "I was meditating-"
     "Should I be sorry I interrupted?"
     She shook her head, then smiled, "Just don't make a habit of it, I expect you to send a psychic probe in ahead of you-" she sort of bowed and closed the door.
     I bowed to the door.
     I thought I heard her laugh in response.
     Up the next flight of stairs.
     The key worked- I was halfway to Angela's bedroom when she walked out of her room herself saw me and froze, then sighed, "Shit- I forgot to ask what time you'd be here- guessed about half an hour from now-" She was wearing a royal blue silk oriental short bathrobe, barefoot- her hair was kind of wild, like she hadn't brushed it since we'd washed it that morning-
     "Pretty close-" I said.
     She looked at me and sighed, looked down at herself in a more or less, well-this-is-me-when-I-wake-up expression or posture.
     I smiled, "You'll do-"
     She smiled, "Ya think so?"
     I nodded.
     She shrugged, "Ya wanna hug me or leave me standing here feeling like I didn't really pass inspection, you're lying to me to make me feel good?"
     I took the last couple steps toward her and hugged her-
     She relaxed in stages, "Ahhhh- Damn- you're a good hugger, too- Got any faults? Quick before I implode-"
     I nodded.
     "Like what?"
     I shrugged, "Is reality testing a fault? I'm standing her in a minor panic thinking too many things are going too right, what the hell is going on?"
     She laughed, "Did we decide whether you're reading my mind or I'm reading yours yet? We can't be thinking the same thoughts independently-"
     "No?"
     "The odds against that are insane-"
     I shrugged, "Did I claim to be sane?"
     She laughed, "Stop that-"
     I kissed her forehead.
     "Oh, no, the honeymoon's over, he kissed me on the forehead-"
     She raised her chin, sort of made sure I knew her mouth was available-
     We kissed.
     "Oh damn- how tired are you?"
     "Me?" I shrugged, "Not that tired-"
     "Ya sure?"
     I nodded.
     "Then what?"
     "Then I pass out?"
     "You gotta work tonight?"
     I shook my head, "Tomorrow morning."
     She sort of went limp in my arms, "I'm allergic to mornings."
     I laughed.
     She laughed.
     We shrugged.
     "Need your uniform tomorrow?"
     I went blank, shrugged, "Do you know Randy's phone number?"
     She shook her head, "No- he's a button under 'speed dial' it just goes beep beeep beep beeeb beep- and he's there groaning, 'What do you want now?' she laughed, picked up a phone and pushed a couple buttons- handed me the phone.
     It rang- twice, Randy answered, "Hello- Jack?"
     "Yup-"
     "Good, you sound almost as tired as I do- what's up?"
     "Should I wear the uniform tomorrow or what?"
     "Oh- shit- I don't know- It might be either that or a suit- Why don't you wear the uniform one more day and ask when we get there?"
     "Okay-"
     "Get some sleep- and hey- you did good today- I knew old Fred was baiting you and you passed with flying colors, I meant to tell you that-"
     "Thanks-"
     "Sure- anything else?"
     "No- don't think so-"
     "Okay, do me a favor? Any more questions? Write em down and ask me in the morning?"
     I laughed, "Sure-"
     "Cool- say good night, Jack-"
     "Good night, Jack-"
     "Later dude-" click.
     I handed the phone to Angela, "Wear the uniform-" I said, "Do I stink?"
     She sniffed, shook her head.
     I raised on arm, she made a face, sniffed shrugged- "Don't you sweat?"
     I shrugged.
     She began unbuttoning my shirt, "Should I like, get dressed so you can undress me?"
     "Not unless you want to-"
     She tipped her head to one side, "What turns you on the most?"
     I tapped her forehead, "You."
     She shuddered, grinned, "Well, you're either the real thing or one hell of a manipulating bastard-"
     "I'll tell ya what- If I turn out to be a manipulating bastard- Kill me-"
     She wrinkled her nose, "How-?"
     I shrugged- "Whatever-"
     She shook her head, "Can I just make you feel so guilty you want to kill yourself? I am Jewish, ya know, I should be practicing that so I can use it on my kids, if I ever have any?"
     "Ya want some?"
     She winced, then nodded, "Only if you turn out to be the guy I hope you are-"
     "Uht oh-"
     She nodded, "Tell me about it-" Then she pushed herself back away from me, "I shouldn't have said that, huh?"
     I shook my head, "You say anything you feel like, long as you don't turn about to be a manipulating bastard-"
     She laughed, "I'd be a manipulating bitch, wouldn't I?"
     I shook my head, "You're flunking "Bitch.101'..."
     "Is that good?"
     I nodded.
     She grinned, "Shut up and kiss me-"

     I have no idea how much later it was, we were lying in a happy trance (Or, I was lying in a happy trance and she looked like she felt about the same.)
     She yawned, "You hungry?"
     "Not really-"
     "Don't tell me I filled you up with love or something?"
     I shrugged, "I'm too tired to be hungry."
     "Uh huh?"
     I almost fell asleep-
     "Hey-"
     "Huh?"
     "You still awake?"
     "Not quite-"
     "If I like make something to eat around midnight- want me to ask you if you're hungry?"
     "Yeah-"
     "Cool- okay with you if I just kind of lie here and listen to you breathe?"
     "Sure-"
     "Can I kiss you if I feel like it?"
     "Yeah-"
     "Is anything off limits?"
     "Uh- No chopping your favorite parts of me off so you can use them in a sculpture?"
     She laughed, "Do you seriously think I'd do that?"
     "I couldn't fall asleep around you if I thought you were capable of something like that."
     "Good- I'm glad you don't think I'm capable of something like that-"
     I laughed.
     "I'm serious- if I feel like, say, touching you somewhere? Ya know, while you're asleep? Should I just go ahead and do it?"
     I sighed, "Don't do anything to me you wouldn't want me to do to you?"
     "That's what I thought- But I thought we might need to clarify a couple things."
     I nodded, "How about- If you think it would make me feel good, go ahead- If you want to wake me up, whisper in my ear or tap me on the shoulder?"
     She nodded.
 
 





Part Four of this story


 
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