The Office Job: Chapter 7: Panik
Slaving away, hoping for a half day
Paul slipped through the fence where one of the bars had fallen off at the welds, the same gap he had used to sneak a girl in afterhours weeks ago. She had an office kink and came dressed like a fifties secretary. He bent her over Todd’s big L desk and her moans sunk into the fabric cubicle walls and thin carpet.
His use of it now was less glamorous. Yesterday’s rain had stirred up rust on the bars and he got a big orange smear on his shirt. His Uber driver pulled up across the storm ditch just out of camera view. It was one of those white round SUVs all the milfs drive, but his driver looked like a substitute teacher.
“Hello! Would you like a water or some gum?” He said as Paul crawled in like a coal miner escaping a collapse. The interior smelled of the tropical scented air freshener clipped to the ac vent. Paul closed the door hard and looked around to see if anyone who looked like law enforcement had seen him.
The driver got more concerned the longer he looked at him. Paul still had the lit blunt in his mouth and the thermos lid open. The sharp slap of near undiluted whiskey beat back the pudgy scent of fake tropical fruits.
“Hey man, come on, you can’t smoke that in here.” He talked like a substitute too. Paul frowned and put it out in the ashtray. The driver turned around in his seat and rolled down the windows.
Paul drank from his thermos and watched the office park flow away like something caught in a power wash. If this guy on the phone was legit, he could probably stay out of state for a while. Maybe find some other jobs until it all died down. Or just live out there. Or leave the fucking country. He was seeing beaches and sex when his phone rang. It was Todd, so he silenced it and let it go to voice mail then went into the hidden settings and hit the big red button. It killed his GPS and anything else that might bite him in the ass and put his phone into standby with the ghost OS. He put it in his pocket and took another drink. Good luck fuckers. He was as good as gone.
Gradie saw the gun waiting in the bag every time his mind drifted off. He worked on auto pilot. Numbers flew out of his mouth and his fingers fluttered on the keys but there was nothing in his brain but jail cells and court appearances. He glanced at the timer. On hold 16 minutes. His shirt peeled off the chair as he stood up, expecting to see cops marching down the aisle. Just the same spread of browns and greys, someone leaning on the door to a cubicle office, laughing over their coffee. He sat back down and decided to look in the bag again. Maybe he had imagined it.
When he reached in, his fingers felt cold plastic. He snatched his hand away and zipped it closed. It must be hot. Some meth head dropped it into his bag yesterday when he left it out in the car, and now he was sitting at work with a murder weapon. He had to get it out of the office. If he got caught with it they would raid his house, search his computer, find all his journals and poems and figure “Yea, this guy was gonna shoot up the place and got cold feet”. He would be on the news. All the family he never talked to would call and he would never get another job again. Never get laid again either. You only got the fan mail and shit if you actually killed someone.
He wiped sweat off his forehead and tried to take deep breaths.
Maybe he would just get fired, keep it quiet. Get a job working fast food or in a warehouse. Might not be so bad having a job that was anything but what he did now. His breathing slowed, and he watched himself work a thousand other jobs in a thousand other worlds and live a thousand other lives until he forgot where he was or what he was afraid of.
Suite 1003: Adrenaline Junkies with Guns, LLC.
Bolton sat in the corner of the conference room and leaned his forehead on the windowpane. Glass towers blended chameleon like into the sky and cars inched across the highway. Offices, restaurants, condos, parking lots. All those people. He usually didn’t have time to think about it, but now…
One of the Operators came in looking like any other office worker. It was so convincing that Bolton thought he had the wrong conference room. The door shut behind him like an air lock as he stopped dead, frozen by Anthony’s glare.
“Were you monitoring when he got a call?” Anthony’s voice was like a building collapsing.
“Uh, yea, about lunch?”
“What did he say?”
“He just made plans with someone for lunch. Something about money. Probably for his drug gig. What? Were you not on that?” He looked around. Anthony stepped towards him. He was six and a half feet tall and built like a powerlifter. His shaved head said ex con, but his suit whispered CEO.
“Where was he going and with who?”
“I don’t know. I only got his side. I don’t get the recordings off his cell. Isn’t it encrypted?”
It was. The team hadn’t thought about trying to monitor it because a tap would be another point of failure, and they had a lid on everyone who knew the number. Or so they thought.
“You didn’t hear any names?” said Anthony.
“No, wait, yeah it was, uh.” He hugged himself and looked at the floor, then up at the humming fluorescence above him, trying to remember. Anthony just watched him.
“Oh, it was Davis! That’s that guy in claims, right? No shit that’s David. Maybe—”
“Who is Davis?” Anthony asked the room.
One of the operators typed frantically into a laptop.
“He's a former client of Paul’s. From a year ago. “
“Were any of you aware of his existence before hearing his name just now?”
No one breathed. There was a clamor of sighs and exhales as everyone realized what happened.
“Anyone on action team go hot and get on the road. Intel, get into his phone and find him. Everyone else get set up, but don’t spook the scenery. Let them fire first. Exit team on me.”
Everyone moved at once. Some went out the doors while others slid the top of the conference table back and grabbed guns out of the slots.
“So, are we done with this place?” One of the operators whispered after Anthony had stepped out.
“Yep. We’re outta this bitch.” Another one said as he holstered a pistol.
“Why? If we can take them out why not just stay here?”
“Because they tracked us already. It's better just to start from scratch. They’ll just send in another team.” The operator slid an Origin 12 and two drums into his work bag.
Bolton went out the door without grabbing anything. If he got to the boiler room fast, he might get to use that SAW after all.
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The Office Job: Chapter 6: Bait
Nine2Fiv3 [headshot symbol] you
Paul had installed a shooter on the computer but couldn’t get into it. He got sniped rushing B for the third time and threw the mouse across the desk. He held the power button down until the fans cut off and let the silence enrage him for a few moments before he stood up.
“Fuck this. They’re sitting on me for something. Death threats? That’s bullshit!”
His phone rang in his pocket and he jumped. The fear he had covered thinly in anger flared up at the sound. He got the phone out to end the call and saw it was coming in on his encrypted number. He didn’t have anything lined up.
“Hey, this Paul?” The voice didn’t sound law or street. It sounded like a single dad.
“Who is this?”
“My name’s Travis. Davis gave me your number.”
Paul had worked for Davis about a year ago and had completely forgotten about him until now. Didn’t he get locked up?
“What do you want?” Paul did his best kingpin voice while backing away from his desk and leaning behind a cabinet. He looked out the blinds to make sure none of the heads above the cubicles were watching him.
“I got some funds I need to invest.”
“Uh, I heard you do wallets. That’ll work. Unless you still do flips?”
Paul had started out washing money by flipping houses and rental properties before moving to mostly crypto and retail.
“Not really. What did you say your name was?”
“Travis. Wanna meet up? I'm gonna get brunch here in a bit.”
“What kind of money were you looking to invest?”
“It’s from this loan thing I was running. Had to close up shop cause the other guy had to dip out. I got stuck holding the bag, as usual.”
This guy sounded like one of those English majors Paul sold shrooms to in college. Was this a trap? It seemed like such easy money.
“So how much work do you need done?” Paul asked.
“It’s a good chunk of change. I’m from out of state so I can fly you out today if you can go. That’s how you usually do it right?”
Talking to this idiot on the phone felt dangerous, encrypted line or not.
“How did you know Davis?”
“Oh, he was friends with my wife.”
Paul snickered away from the phone.
“Oh, Ok. Where are you having lunch?”
“At that new Deli place, the bottle shop or whatever, you know?”
“Yea, I know it.”
“Cool beans. I’ll be out back at the tables, probably get there before noon, but I’ll be there an hour or so at least.”
Fucking A. He could probably get this guy to buy him a plane ticket and be out of state before any warrant got cleared. This cover job was getting old anyway.
He closed the encrypted OS and ordered a ride on the app then put most of the whiskey and some of the soda in his thermos and walked out of his office. Everyone watched him cross the floor as he made for the restroom. His next cover would have to be some kind of work from home gig. He waited in the stall for about ten minutes then went to the break room and bought a bag of chips. As he waited for the bag to drop, there was that hum, from the lights or vending machines or something unseen, that lapped against the linoleum and filled the room like stale air, the distinctive sound of a breakroom outside of breaktimes. The sound of unwelcome, of a mistake. The plastic flap slapped down like a cell door as he grabbed the chips, cementing his decision to never return.
He took the back staircase and went down a thin hall on the bottom floor. A security guard talked to the maintenance guy in a cramped, buzzing room that smelled like hot pockets and they both looked out as he passed. The hallway was yellowed and dusty with an old linoleum tile floor and stained flaking ceiling panels. It felt like the last part of another older building that had been eaten by the glass one above. The watching eyes, the decaying dustiness, all made him feel he was escaping a collapse.
The door at the end of the hall opened out into the smoker’s cage; a section of cement alley between the building and the parking garage behind a high metal security fence warped by the decades. Gravel sided trash cans, an ancient mesh bench and an old, fractured cement picnic table, all older than Paul. It was against more than a few laws to smoke out here, but everyone did it. Paul smelled weed as he sat down and opened the chips.
In the security room, the guard full-screened the window of the camera on the smokers cage. Paul finished his chips and stood up. He looked around and moved to the far corner and got out a pack of cigarettes. He took one out, then put it back and pulled out a blunt and moved up to the fence so that only his shoulder was in frame. The security guard smiled and restored the window back to a fourth of the screen. He picked up a cell phone and dialed out on an encrypted line.
“Hey, its Bolton. Yea, I'm on cameras. He's sitting in the, uh, cage thing, smoking a joint. Ha ha, yea. Have you heard anything else?”
Bolton reached under the desk and unclipped his MP5. He ejected the magazine and rubbed his finger on the brass of the first round while the person on the other end talked.
“Oh shit really? You think they’ll hit it today? Right. Any idea who it is? Gotcha. Hey, that SAW in the box, is that just for anyone or—.Ok. But if shit goes off and I don’t see him, can I—. Oh, alright. Awesome! What? Oh I didn’t even see that. And the grenades, are those—”
Bolton had been opening and slapping home the charging handle on the MP5 absent mindedly. When he looked down to open it a tenth time, he saw in the tiny upper left window of the screen that Paul’s shoulder was gone. He froze and the chair stopped mid squeak.
“Ok, well keep me updated. No, yea he’s still there. Puffin away, ha ha. Yeah, will do.”
He tapped the phone frantically.
“Shit.” He flicked through the outside cameras, but it was deep into the lunch rush and there were cars everywhere.
“Shit.” He stood up, picked up the phone, and sighed. Probably wouldn’t get to shoot that SAW now.
A pistol in the cupholder is worth two in the—
The land was flat in all directions. Low silver clouds slid across the sky towards the knee-high horizon like they were part of some other world. It was the kind of bright blue day that had a feeling of motion even when standing still.
Philip sat in the center of the SUV with Luke in the driver's seat, parked next to a 24-pump gas station facing an empty field. McMansions with faces of brick and vinyl siding stared hungrily over a subdivision wall at the bare earth and weeds, waiting to pounce.
He had called one of his guys who had contacts near the target’s POE to ask for the name of the cleaner that worked in the area.
“Peter, no, fuck, lemme see.” The guy had talked to someone in the background while a child's whine and the drone of daytime tv came through in choppy echoes. When he got back on the line, he said the cleaner's name was Paul and gave Philip the number to his secure line. Philip put on his best “I’m a little bitch trying to hide my money from the divorce lawyers” voice and made the call. That was that.
Luke heard Philip yelling on the phone as he pulled out of the lot. Less than a minute later he got the call from Lindsey. She sounded mad and he regretted he wasn’t there to see it, her green eyes burning under those cute little eyebrows. He smiled and rested his hand on the big matte box built into the center console, like a movie cowboy holding his hand over a revolver.
“Thanks for backing me up.” Said Philip.
“Don’t make me regret it.”
Philip leaned forward and opened the back of the console.
“How pissed do you think she’ll be when I drop this guy over a fucking ham and swiss?”
Luke glanced back as Philip took a dark handgun, a SIG P365, out of the black box and racked the slide. A round went bouncing onto the floor.
“Shit.” He went down to pick it up.
“I keep all my chambers loaded. This ain't a goddamn field trip.” Luke said.
“He heh.” Philip put the mag back in, racked the slide, ejected the mag and put the round back on top and slapped it back into the gun.
“His guard will probably follow him and brain you when you sit down.” Luke said as he smoothly rolled through a turn.
“Won't you be keeping an eye out? Or are you gonna let them pop me just to make Theresa smile?” Philip put the gun in his jacket pocket and took out a cigar tube.
“I’m just saying you better shoot fast.”
“You remember I started out an operator, right?” He put the cigar in his mouth and took out a lighter.
“That was a long time ago, I heard. Those don’t roll down.” Said Luke. Philip had been poking the window controls repeatedly. He swore and cracked the sunroof.
“You know, he doesn’t know what you look like. Why don’t I just do it?” said Luke.
“He may not know what I look like, but he knows I don’t look like you. He heard me on the phone and my voice wouldn’t come out your face in a million years.”
Philip held the cigar above the flame and rotated it slowly.
“Also, he should find me familiar when he sees me.” He smiled and blew on the end of it.
Luke looked back for a moment. He had forgotten, even though he had just been telling Lindsey, that Philip was good.
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