Interdepartmental Meeting

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Zoos, thought Janice, are testament to the fortitude of  human will. It is no small feat of courage to spend the day watching these magnificent beasts mope around the far corners of their little enclosures, trying to ignore all the noisy assholes with cameras, and not finish the afternoon by going home and hanging yourself.

The truly maddening part was ridding on the little tram around its circuit of reproduced continents and listening to  the prerecorded tour guide drone on about all the good research and breeding programs that the facility was involved in. Another one of mankind’s attempt to put its thumbprint on the world. Part of a long series of pompous attempts at controlling nature, this time by trying to save it.

The little mock safari train rounded the final bend to the back-end of the zoo and came to a halt at the cute little rundown station right in between Asia and Australia. Just past the Komodo dragons was the Pagoda Cafe, a small plaza surrounded by an ornamental garden and complete with a large pond. Crossing the bridge she took a moment to admire the gold jumbo koi before scanning the cafe for her meeting. She gave an annoyed little sighed when she spotted him.

“I thought you’d be kidding about the pink carnation,” she said approaching the man in the white linen suit, “you look like a walking cliché.”

“I’m sitting if you hadn’t noticed, and the good thing about clichés are they’re obvious sweetie. The obvious tends to go unnoticed. I can I buy you a drink? I’m afraid the strongest thing they got here is Gatorade, but I’m sure something can be arranged.”

“I’ll be fine thank you,” Janice said taking a seat. “Please tell me why we are meeting in this god awful place.”

“You want god awful you should go to the Africa exhibit when they feed the White-backed vultures,” the old man smiled, “talk about a stench.” He took a sip from his drink and looked around casually. “Let’s just talk about our little problem. I know this isn’t your preferred venue for our little interdepartmental meeting, but this is the one place that I know our mutual friend is not”

“Any word on him?”

“Nothing yet, but he ain’t got too many places to go. So tell me Doc, what do you think happened?”

A scowl briefly ran across her face. “I am not a physician,” she snapped, “so please don’t address me as one. What I do requires more skill than those glorified barbers.”

“I’ve had a long look at your dossier, I picked you for this job myself, and I know damned well what you are. Doctor you ain’t but, there are several names for what you do as a matter of fact, and lady most of them ain’t pleasant. But that isn’t what concerns me right now. What I got on my mind is that I got an asset runnin’ loose with his memories all scrambled. You were brought on to keep that from happening, you pretty much screwed that up. Now, I’m not pissed about that,” he leaned back in his chair, “it’s a temporary setback, we’ll fix it. What I want right now is for you to tell me, in your professional opinion, how long you think we got before he gets his old brain back?”

“Untreated? I estimate a week at best,” but we’re probably looking at closer to four days.” She softened he tone but still couldn’t hide the insulted look on her face. “He’s developed some tolerance to the serums, also he was under a great deal of mental strain. I recommended a longer series of treatments but, that was obviously disregarded.”

“Your objections were noted but I don’t control of the timing on this one, there’s outside influences at work. Can you mix up a cocktail,” he asked, “that will bring his head back to where we need it?”

Janice winced at the comparison of her art to that of a bartenders “I was already planning on upping the dosage, on your suggestion. That and a few days of rest and further treatment should repair the situation. I will need some time and a few samples from our subject to create a more permanent solution.”

“Well, we can’t have him running around remembering things, that would be inconvenient as all hell. Probably get him killed to boot.” There was a ringing from under the table and the old man pulled up a large shoulder bag and dug through it for a moment. He produced an antiquated cellphone from its depths and stared at it for a moment. “Excuse me Janice,” said Mr. Davis, flipping it open “I have to take this.”

Janice nodded, pulled out her own phone and toyed with it patiently while he talked.

“Yeah? What’s that? Good, good, just take care of it, but be careful I don’t want anyone hurt, and I don’t want you seen doing it either. She’s with me now, we’re on our way.” He shut the phone and dropped it casually back into his bag.

“Good news?” she asked looking up.

“They located our boy. He used the credit card I gave him to check into a motel about two hours ago. He’s still there sleeping off his little fit. One of my other associates is going to scoop Jerry up and bring him back to his apartment sedated,” he said getting to his feet. “Get your stuff and meet me there in an hour, you can do that right.”

She opened her mouth to speak, but Davis was already heading across the little carved bridge. She watched him go as he lazily plucked the carnation from his lapel and dropped  into the koi pond. Jerry was right, she thought, his boss  is kind of a jerk.

Eyes and the Mirror

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He stared through the smoke and noise at the blurred reflection in the mirror on the wall, the short distance between where he sat and where he looked seemed to shrink and grow as he thought, as he tried to remember. There was something in that gap, there had to be something.

***

He was working in the Public Defender’s office, as an investigator. There were only a few options for someone with a C.J. degree that had decided at the last-minute that being a cop wasn’t for him. Instead of putting the bad guys in jail, something that didn’t seem to work anyway, he decided to help keep innocent people out of it. That didn’t really seem work out all that well either. He split most of his work day reviewing files, looking for evidence that wasn’t there or had been obviously mishandled, and interviewing witnesses that couldn’t tell him much or had obviously been coerced; any of them with solid information either wound up changing their stories or sometimes addresses. He was starting to think the whole thing was rigged to begin with. He just hadn’t figured out by who.

“Figure that one out and you’ll be rich, or probably just dead,” someone had once said. Who was it that told him? When?

It was another case. Another file, just like the all the others. A piece of bad evidence that had led him out here to talk to yet another of those squirrely witnesses. Out here in the cold and damp of a stormy night. Out here to the slums where the immigrants were pigeon holed in crappy bug infested apartments, located on crappy crime ridden streets; maybe after a generations or two of penance for the sin of not being from around here they’d be allowed to live somewhere where the smell could be described without resorting to the word malevolent. He hated being down here, especially at night.

Tonight, the moon was a cartoonish sliver hanging in the sky. A jagged cut just barely visible through the billowing smoke plumes of the entirely too close, yet legally distant industrial park. He was never sure what they made there, but they were at it twenty-four seven; from the look of the surrounding neighborhood he thought, maybe they manufactured more immigrants. The people who braved the rain skulked along the poorly lit streets nearly invisible as he drove up towards what he assumed would turn out to be some god forsaken sweatshop.

When he arrived he showed his credentials and was let through the gate by a guard with a cheap uniform and a bad accent. He he found where was told to park, got out of his car opened his umbrella against the rain and walked across the lot towards building four. This was where the witness should be on break, according to the phone conversation they had a few hours ago. It didn’t matter much to him if she showed or not, he wasn’t paid for overtime and the sooner he got this over with the sooner he could get home where it was warm.

He reached the building and rummaged through his pockets. He had written the witnesses name down in his notebook, which he managed to leave in the car. He stood there, staring at the door, debating whether to go back for it when something struck him.

A searing pain in his arm followed by another in his chest. It was a heart attack, had to be. He looked there wasn’t any blood on him. He gasped for air, his lungs filled with fire, he fell to his knees. He clawed at the air, at the two green lights. The lights peered at him. A face, he couldn’t quite make out. Some thing sharp and wicked reached out and touched his forehead. He could barely make out his own face in a window contorted with pain. Lights flashed, his vision blurred. Something exploded.

***

“Jerry… hello… Jerry…” Janice waved her hands in his face, the motion breaking the mirrors spell.

Jerry looked at her, up and down in the neon light several times. His vision began to clear but his head was throbbing, the incessant beat of the music in the club wasn’t helping much. It had all started with that case, that night at the industrial park. What industrial park? Where was it? What case? What city had that been? When had that been? The more he thought about it the harder it was to remember.

Janice straightened her short skirt and took up the stool next to him at the bar. “You were lost in there for a minute there,” she motioned at the mirror across from them, “you see what you were looking for, babe?”

“How long have we known each other Jan?” He stirred his martini, the swizzle had three olives on it, he always got them with extra olives when he was meeting up with Janice. He pinched the bridge of his nose his head, slowly started to feel normal.

“Seems like forever to me,” she said teasing her hair in the mirror.

“Yeah, forever, seem about right. Seems exactly right. We’ve known each other for as long as I can remember, been chasing each other around bars and bedrooms the whole time.” Jerry closed his eyes in a long blink and ran his hand through his hair. “Funny thing is, I can’t remember meeting you Jan.”

“What are you talking about Jerry?” She reached over and took the olive laden spear from his hand and ispected professionally. “That’s just silly, you’re pulling my leg.”

“I don’t see it. I can picture a time when I didn’t know you, and then there’s now when I know you. What I can’t see is the moment when that changed. I can’t picture finding out your name, or introducing myself. That’s not all that’s missing either.”

She carefully plucked the olives from the swizzle, and placed one carefully in her mouth. She chewed it thoughtfully for a moment and then swallowed. “I think you’ve been working too hard, and you and I need to go somewhere quiet where you can relax.”

Jerry stared at his drink as she plopped the remaining olives back into it. “Yeah, working too hard. You know I don’t remember telling you what it is I do for a living.”

“Well,” she said standing up, “I’m going to powder my nose. You go ahead and finish your drink and then we can go back to your place and you can tell me about yourself all over again.” She  brushed his shoulder with her hand and walked off towards the lady’s room.

Jerry watched her go and smiled. He might be losing his mind but at least she’d stand by him, at least for tonight. He turned toward his drink and there, floating in it were the olives. Staring at him like eyes, almost glowing in the bar’s neons.

***

Janice adjusted her make up in the mirror, and patted her hair to make sure it was still all in its proper place. She was worried about Jerry; she’d seen him in a bad state before, but never like this. No matter, she’d get him alone and she was sure she’d be able to make him feel right as rain by morning.

She winked at her reflection, dropped her lipstick into her purse and took a deep breath. Putting on a new smile, Janice sauntered back out towards the bar.

She got there in time to see the bartender cleaning up a broken martini glass, nearby two olives sat in a pool of liquor. She ran outside and looked up and down the empty street. Jerry was nowhere to be seen.

She reached into her purse, slowly took out her phone, and dialed.

“We may have a small problem,” she said before the person on the other end said hello. “We should meet and discuss it in person.”

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The Diner Scene

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Walking in the front door of Lily’s his eyes were assaulted by stainless steel, and boomerang patterned formica basking in the glare of fluorescent lights. Jerry squinted through his headache and fatigue to find his partner standing and waving at him from the far booth of crowded the diner.  He hurriedly walked toward him past rows of work a day people shoveling pancakes into their mouths.

“Morning Jerry!” Mister Davis took him by the arm, grabbed his hand and pumped furiously; Jerry thought the motion was going to make him vomit. “I went ahead and ordered us up a pot of coffee kiddo.” He said guiding the younger man into the booth. “You seem like you could use it, you look like unadulterated shit.”

“I haven’t been sleeping much lately. Been up for days getting my head wrapped around your Maslow problem and I…”

“Way I see it kiddo Maslow’s your problem, at least for the time being.” The smile on Davis’s face narrowed just a bit as he leaned back against the red buttoned cushion of his seat. “That’d be why you’re the one whose stayin” up late thinkin’ about him.”

“Alright then,” Jerry poured himself a coffee out of the carafe on the table, “I’ve been working myself sick on the Maslow problem.” He wrapped his hands around the cup feeling the warmth of the hot liquid; absent mindedly he began to roll the it back and forth in his  hands. “I think what I’ve decided is that Peter Maslow and I should become very close friends.”

“You’re fidgetin’ with your drink again, I told you to be careful about that,” the older man admonished. “Look, I thought it was agreed we needed him out of the picture. You were going to get rid of him and then take over his position. I’m not sure I get where you’re goin’ with this angle Jerry.”

“We do need him gone, but just to make a vacuum in the organization, if we just take him out there is no real guarantee that I’ll be the one to fill it. I got to thinking about something you said a few weeks back. You said I should find a way to get alongside him.” Jerry blew across his coffee, watching the surface of the black liquid ripple outward. He set it back on the table without taking a sip; he could feel Davis’s disapproving look, but decided he was too exhausted to care much about it. “The way I’m looking at it, if I get in good with our boy he’ll introduce me around to his friends. If I get them to trust me, I get shown around meet the real players. That way when some unfortunate fate befalls poor Peter, They already know me, I’m in a better position to take his place. Then I work my way around, get a good look at the operation and find out who’s pulling the strings.”

“Kiddo, I never said that you should get friendly with the guy, I just meant you needed to know who you’re dealin’ with. The game we play is mostly about research. A successful job is usually seventy percent done by the time we hit the field.” Davis produced a flask from under the table and poured a small amount of its contents into his mug. “Sounds like you got your heart set on this angle, and it’s your play to make so just make sure you got your ducks in a row before we start.” He raised the flask and offered it towards Jerry.

“Christ Davis, ” Jerry groaned, “what is it with you? I mean, the entire time we’ve been working on this it ‘s been like being on a three-month bender. Your telling me to have my ducks in a row and every time we get together, we end up drinking like it’s Spring break. Give it a rest.”

The old man looked genuinely hurt. “Just bein’ sociable, you don’t want any just say no, preferably with a fuckin’ thank you at the end of it.” Davis dropped the flask into his bag. “You know there was a time when people had some damned manners, knew how to be gracious.”

“I’m sorry, I just meant. Look I’m just really tired and I’m getting snappy.

“Whatever kiddo,” he fished around in his bag and produced a thin plastic card which he tossed on to the table with out ceremony, “There’s your expense account, start by gettin’ yourself some breakfast. Pretty much anything on the menu is good, though I’d avoid the Hollandaise sauce in your condition. Then go outfit yourself with the right wardrobe. You can play this anyway you want just be ready to go by the end of the month.” Davis stood, and slung his bag over his shoulder. “You know how to find me if you need anything”

“Really Davis, I mean it. I really am sorry.”

“So you said. Job get’s the best of all of us sometimes, each in our own ways.” The old man started walking away, buttoning his coat.

“Hey Davis,” Jerry started.

“What is it kiddo?”

There’s this thing I’ve got on my mind that I can’t shake, Jerry thought, but if I try to focus on it, really think about it, it’s like it moves farther away. If I look at it too long my head starts to throb and everything gets all fuzzy. That’s why I can’t sleep, that’s why I snapped at you. There’s something just on the edges of my thoughts that I just can’t keep a hold of, but I know it’s something important.

Instead he just said “Nevermind, I’ll see you around.” 

Davis raised a quizzical eyebrow, “Yeah, ok kiddo. You take care, and get some rest.”

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