Chapter 5

By the time Conrad made it back to his office, he was livid. He could feel his stomach churn in frustration. “Who did Neil think he was anyway?” he wondered quietly. Deep in frenzied thought, he passed by his secretary Debra without giving her a second thought. Just as he went to close his office door, he realized that she had been trying to get his attention. He stopped himself from shutting the door and noticed she was motioning frantically towards a visitor sitting in the bank of chairs outside his office. He glanced at Debra for a second, leering at her. “Look at that body,” he thought to himself, “I would have thought by now that she’d sleep with me.” He knew that Debra hated the leering. He could see it made her uncomfortable, but it’s not as if a CEO of his stature hired a woman like that as a personal assistant based on her community college diploma. She would eventually need something from him and that’s when he could take advantage. Everyone has a price. Conrad turned his attention to his guest, now moving towards him slowly and confidently. His visitor, Chuck, moved towards him with purpose. Conrad didn’t know if there was a specific walk that ex-military people had, but if there was, Chuck was nailing it. Even and steady steps that reminded him of a march. Conrad smiled and raised his hand to meet Chuck’s.

Conrad appreciated the timing of the whole situation. Chuck was once an outstanding moral man. Conrad was slowly able to turn him into a monster. Surely, if he could turn a good man into someone he feared, he could figure out how to win over Debra.

Conrad cleared his mind. He’d need to put a pin in his conquests and come back to them later. It was time for business. “Chuck,” he spoke. “It’s good to see you. You know the drill. I need your help with something. Come on in.”

Conrad put his hand on Chuck’s shoulder, guiding him into his office. He closed the door behind himself, allowing one more glance in Debra’s direction. She scowled back at him. He walked toward his desk, motioning at the well-stocked bar behind his desk.

“Scotch?” he asked Chuck, knowing that it was an empty gesture.

“No thanks, maybe next time” said Chuck.

Conrad shrugged, poured himself a scotch and sat down. Chuck never took him up on a drink. Never in all the years he’d known him. Conrad knew that alcohol wasn’t Chuck’s vice, but he knew that Chuck wasn’t exactly the paragon of a clean lifestyle. He looked up at Chuck, and realized he still standing. Was it respect? Obedience? Was he in a hurry?

“Why don’t you sit down?” asked Conrad, motioning to the chair. Chuck seemed to ignore the request and started to talk.

“So I see you got Neil back. I know he’s gonna cause me a pile of trouble. I know you’ve ordered me here because of him.”

Conrad appreciated the direct approach. He smiled, sipped his scotch and put on the most awed expression he could muster.

“What?” Conrad asked, feigning disappointment “Maybe this is a social call. Or maybe I have a project that doesn’t require your usual approach.”

“We’ve known each other a long time. I know it’s all business with you. I’m ok with that. I know I’m the guy who fixes messes. You have a mess. What’s the story?”

“Fine, you got me. Neil’s back because he’s working on a critical project – albeit reluctantly. There may have been some blackmail involved. He doesn’t want to be here. Can you keep an eye on things and make sure they go smoothly? Step in when needed? Keep things clean and uncomplicated?”

“Well, you know our arrangement.”

Conrad nodded and reached into his desk drawer. He looked down at a manila envelope filled with syringes. He grabbed the envelope carefully, opened it up and held it toward Chuck so he could see the contents. Chuck nodded.

“Here’s half,” Conrad noted as Chuck picked up the pile. “The rest comes to you when I’m satisfied.”

“That’s a lot for half.”

Conrad nodded. “Before you ask, you don’t need to make preparations or pack a go-bag. You’re not going to be doing anything you’ll regret and you might even find this is one of the easiest jobs I have you do. You’re not getting paid for expertise, you’re getting paid for how long I’ll be engaging your services. What I need from you is going to be a pretty much full-time job for the next little bit. And I don’t want people asking too many questions about your presence, so I’ve arranged an opening – we need a consultant brought on to manage the special projects we have going on in the silo and to oversee a full review of our security practices and protocols. Basically, I want the staff to get used to having you around.”

Chuck looked in the envelope a second time. Conrad could see him moving his lips while he counted out numbers. Chuck added in.

“Ninety. There’s 90 syringes in there, which buys you about 250 days.”

Chuck nodded grimly.

Conrad fought the urge to smile. One of the smartest decisions he ever made was to purchase that pharmaceutical company. There’s a ton of diseases that need constant medication. Constant expensive medication.

Chuck closed the envelope. He spoke “Yeah, the better part of a year for me. If it’s going to be long term though, are you sure this is enough? It might run out before I’m done working here.”

“If it’s not enough, I’m open to getting you more. I have no clue how long I’ll have you here, but I know the value of your time. Are you in?”

Chuck nodded, clutching the envelope tight.

“Oh,” Conrad mentioned “There’s a REAL audit coming up soon, so I expect you to actually review the security practices and protocols. It’s going to be easier to sell your presence here if you’re actually doing stuff and I know you have the expertise to let me know just how secure we are.”

“Fair enough”

Conrad wondered to himself if he should tell Chuck that there’s a reasonable chance he’ll have to take care of Neil eventually. Conrad knew that odds were pretty high that Neil would fuck him over somehow. Neil was a pretty smart guy, after all. Not as ruthless as Conrad, but smart. That can be dangerous. Conrad considered the big picture for a second and ultimately decided against saying anything else. Conrad stood up and walked around his desk towards the door. He opened the door and called out to Debra.

“Deb? Could I get you to come in here?”

Conrad noticed that Debra rolled her eyes. He noticed she didn’t like being called Deb. He made a note to call her that more frequently. Conrad stared at Debra’s body the entire time she walked towards the door, noticing how her skirt would rise up with each step, trying to imagine the outline of her body through her blouse. This was a worthwhile distraction. As Debra reached the door, Conrad took a step back into his office, spun around and leaned against the interior wall. Debra continued to walk in. Chuck stood up, hand outstretched, prompting Debra to continue walking over. Conrad waited for an extra second to observe their interactions. Conrad was curious how they would interact. A man as broken as Chuck tended to attract a certain type of woman. He noted that Debra’s greeting was cold and professional, a development he did not expect. He would have to consider what that meant about her later. He noticed that Debra and Chuck both exchanged names brusquely, prompting him to speak quickly, to prevent the awkwardness of small talk.

“Debra,” Conrad spoke authoritatively, “Chuck here is going to need your attention today. He’s a consultant. We’re bringing him on board to take on some of the project management duties at the silo. He also has a background in security, so he’s going to oversee the pre-audit review to get his feet wet.”

Conrad noticed that Debra’s appraisal of Chuck changed the instant she found out he would have a level of power here in the office. He watched her body language change, he saw her turn towards him. This was a calculating move. Conrad wasn’t sure whether to be disgusted or impressed. It was just more pieces to consider later. Conrad fumbled at some papers on his desk, grabbing some forms he had already filled out.

“Here’s the authorization forms you’ll need to get him security clearance. He should have full access to any system he deems fit, his badge should open any door in the building. You will personally oversee that he has this access before the end of the day. Delegate everything else you have to someone else’s secretary.”

Debra responded enthusiastically. “I’ll take care of it right away, Sir.”

Conrad didn’t appreciate the fact that Debra took interest in Chuck once she found out he would carry some level of clout. If power impressed her, why wasn’t she interested in him?

“Ah well,” he thought to himself. “There’s always more secretaries. I’ll have her clean out her desk when she’s done getting Chuck set up.”

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Richard Belzile said...

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I am Sinewave: Spark

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