Phew. I always had the general direction of the story down, but recently I actually fined out some of the details. I’m gonna keep these chapters coming out somewhat-regularly until it’s done, I hope.
Clyde, with Andrew in his hand, walked through a main hall of Mind Pharmaceutical offices. Nobody recognized him, he was glad to see. There were only a few that would or could, and that was how he intended it.
His bad feeling had resided, mostly. There was still a niggling worm of misgiving that lingered in his mind, now, but he knew that for the time being it wasn’t as imminent as it might’ve been. He was glad of that; it gave him more time to figure it out and figure out what to do with it.
He walked into the main entrance hall of Mind Pharmaceuticals and saw a metal plaque with his name and bust engraved on it. He smiled.
Not his bust, really. Someone’s, who would be immediately and respectfully recognized as Clyde Edison Orrville, CEO of Mind Pharmaceuticals, but most definitely not him.
He stood by the door for a moment, pondering what to do next, then looked at the clock and decided he may as well go home. He started out the door, then realized he was still holding Andrew.
He closed the door, went back to his office, and put Andrew in his cage, then once again went to the main entrance hall and left the building. He’d fish that worm of misgiving out later.
John’s head slumped, his chin falling off his hand. Before his head hit the table he jumped alert, slapping himself in a vain attempt to keep himself awake.
God, why did this job have to be so damn slow? He honestly didn’t get why they hired him to do it; from what he had seen of it, he figured it would be easy enough to automate a computer to do it, which he imagined would be much cheaper.
But hey, he thought, I have the job. I should stick with it. Hell, there are a lot worse things I could be doing!
He turned back to the computer screen and almost let out an audible groan when he was brought back to the pure drudgery of it all.
He pushed back from his desk, his chair wheels rattling, a little faster than he intended. He looked around for a moment, making sure no one noticed, then got up.
He’d get some coffee. Yeah, that would help. A little walk around to the cafe room, coffee, and a little walk back. Just what he needed, he thought.
He turned out of his cubicle and began walking down the hall, past a row of offices, and down a staircase that turned back on itself halfway down. This opened out into a strange open area that several different hallways led into, and he continued down the hallway in front of him. Three doorways down and to the left was the small cafe. He went in, found the mug he kept in there, and poured some coffee. He opened the fridge, took out two creams, and mixed them and a sugar into the coffee. He took a sip of it, leaning against the edge of the counter, then took a deep breath and closed his eyes, hoping for a few moments of a break before he had to go back to work.
Those moments were up far too soon. John took another sip of his coffee, then went back out the door. Before he went back up the hall, though, he decided he’d try going back to his desk a different way this time. It struck him as odd, actually, that he hadn’t tried that before.
In the open area, instead of going straight, he went to his right, down a hall he hadn’t been down before. He saw a few people there that he had seen around a few times, but nobody he really knew. As he was passing the final door before a left-hand turn into a stairwell, he almost ran into someone stepping out of it. Tall with dark hair and glasses, the man muttered, “Fuck Jem and everyone else,” before hastily apologizing for bumping into John and stalking off in the opposite direction down the hall.
John looked down the hall towards the man, then looked into the office, the door of which was still partially open. He was about to continue towards the stairwell, then noticed a trail of smoke drifting from the desk.
Back in his cell, Jem smiled. He finally had something to smile about in this goddamn prison. He laughed a little at the irony of it, being able to get a steady supply of the very thing that put him in here. The irony just made it better, though.
He looked at the clock on the wall outside his cell. Any moment, now….
He heard a loud metal-on-metal sound of a bolt sliding back, unlocking his cell. He slid it back and joined the stream of people that were heading towards the main yard for their section.
Once there, he sat down on a certain bench that looked out towards the east. It was where he always met Christopher and, soon enough, Christopher showed up, already two-thirds of the way through a cigarette.
“Hey, Jem,” he said, taking a seat next to him. “What’s new?”
“I got to have a little meeting with someone today.”
He dropped the butt on the cement and stepped on it to extinguish it, already pulling out another from his seemingly endless supply. Jem didn’t suppose Christopher spent money on anything other than cigarettes, even if he could. He didn’t eat much, and Jem didn’t know of him having any relatives – or, in any case, sending letters to them.
Jem opened his mouth to speak, then thought a moment longer on what he should say. He trusted Christopher, that was true, but he still didn’t know how many people he should let into the know about what Devin actually wanted. He decided upon telling him the simplest truth.
“He wanted me to go over to Mind Pharmaceuticals. It seems they have need for, uh, people.”
He looked at Christopher out of the corners of his eyes. Christopher nodded slowly, looking out onto the eastern horizon.
“I think I can figure for what,” he said. “They asked, you, though? Seems kind of odd, them giving you a choice.”
“I guess they suppose it makes it more legal,” Jem said, amused at the partial-truth he was mixing in with the lie.
Christopher kept looking out at the horizon, sucking down cigarette after cigarette as if every one was his last.
A guard walked up to them and addressed Christopher.
“You’re wanted somewhere,” he said, and extended a pair of handcuffs. Christopher sighed and extinguished the cigarette he had, then let himself be handcuffed and led off.
“Probably want me to clean up some pile of butts I left somewhere then lecture me about it,” he said over his shoulder to Jem.
Jem nodded and looked back towards the horizon. It happened often enough, it was more than likely. He hoped that was all it was.
John rushed into the office, more out of instinct than anything else. There was, indeed, the remains of a piece of paper, flames licking up one side of it. He almost rushed out of the office again, to call whoever that was back in here, but realized he was probably already out of earshot, and any time he spent doing that would risk setting something else on fire.
He picked it up by the top, not quite sure what to do. He started to blow on it, but as the flames started eating away the paper even quicker, his wits came to him and he dropped it on the desk, braced himself, and slapped the paper repeatedly, stifling the burning.
After it had been extinguished, he rubbed his hands together, meaning to brush the charred bits off but actually just smearing the ashes over himself. He let out a sigh, then made to head out the door and head back to his cubicle, but realized he should probably stay and explain what happened to the resident of the office.
His eyes wandered to the remainder of the paper, sitting on the desk. It was written in a hasty, shaky scrawl. Somewhere inside, he knew he shouldn’t, but he casually started reading it, not really meaning to at first but slowly becoming more and more intent on it.
the interview with jem didnt go well. he rejected it, which suprised me and probably you too. but more than that hes now blackmailing me with what little i told him making me give him tripencorqine
i think he might join us eventually though especially if you find some reason hed want to come. i think the guard said he and at that point this can end but before then i guess ill
After that, it was burnt off.
The man stepped into the doorway, almost completely blocking out the light from inside.
“What the fuck are you doing in here?” he demanded.
John realized too late that he was, by this point, so engrossed in reading and re-reading it that he had picked it up in the hand that wasn’t holding his coffee – he had set it down when he was extinguishing it and picked it up afterward – and was reading it intently. He looked up with shock at the man in the doorway, who he presumed to be “gerard”.
Gerard stepped towards John quick enough that John irrationally thought he was going to attack him and dropped both the paper and his coffee in his sudden fright.
The coffee cup fell to the ground and splashed over the floor.
Gerard stepped back. “God damn. Okay. First.”
He turned and closed the door behind him, then took a deep breath.
“I knew I shouldn’t have been so hasty in my upset. Anyway. Who are you?”
“John Taylor, from upstairs. I’m an intern,” he somehow said.
“Okay. I’m Gerard, as you probably know already,” he said, a harsh tone in his voice as he looked at the burnt remnants on the floor.
“Yeah, sorry. About that and the coffee. That the most, I guess,” John said, implying the note.
Gerard pressed on his forehead as if he had a headache. “Okay, what do you know?”
“Well. You and the writer of this were trying to get this guy ‘Jem’ to join something. But it sounded like it was kind of sketchy, you know? Isn’t ‘tripencorqine’ like, a hard drug?”
“Tripencorquine. And yes. Go on.”
“Well, and I guess that’s it. But going from your reaction, I’d guess it’s something pretty secret, or illegal, or both. Well, I guess most things that are illegal are secret, so…”
Gerard stopped him. “Okay. I guess that’s fine. As long as you swear, and I mean that literally, that you won’t tell anyone, I can fill in a few small details for you. Just count yourself as… in on a little secret project, okay?”
John nodded. This was making his day more interesting, in any case.
“No. Swear it.”
John, somewhat put aback, said, “I swear that I won’t tell anyone.”
“Fine. So, the guy who wrote the letter is named Devin. And all of this is just about making this company better, okay? Getting out some of the somewhat shady things that are mostly hidden here. So it’s all fine, got it?”
John nodded again.
“Okay, fine. Be on your way. And remember, no one. I don’t care if your girlfriend says she won’t sleep with you unless you tell her. Become celibate.”
John nodded once more, not sure what to say. Then he remembered the coffee and started to ask what he should do.
“I’ll just send in a cleaner. No problem, don’t worry.”
“Okay,” John said, then headed out the door and up the stairway to his cubicle.
All in all, a nice invigorating break, he thought.
Jem waited for Christopher to return for a while, sitting on the bench. After a while, he got up and walked around the yard to stretch his legs.
He sat back down on the bench, for a while, then got bored and got up again. He wandered around for a bit before finding an ongoing game of poker. He watched for a bit, then asked to join in the next hand. A few people moved around to make room for him to sit down amongst them, then the dealer slid out the cards to everyone.
Jem picked up his cards, and the dealer coughed loudly. Jem looked up, and the dealer said, “Pay the blind.”
Jem, startled, fumbled his pack of cigarettes and tossed one into the middle.
The game began, and Jem played with only half his mind.
What could be keeping Christopher so long? He had gotten in trouble before, but nothing too bad and it never took this long.
At the end of the ninth round, Jem saw the guard who had taken Christopher walking around in the yard again. He got up and thanked the dealer, took the few cigarettes he had one, and walked over to the guard. He recognized him, this time, as the guard who had taken him to talk with Devin.
The guard was the same height as Jem, but he tried to look down at him all the same. “He’s gone. Not here any more.”
“Where the hell is he, then?”
The guard tried to look as though he was keeping a straight face, but sneered at Jem all the same. “You won’t be seeing him any time soon.”
Jem licked his lips and turned around, walking back over to the bench. He flipped off the guard over his shoulder.
He wasn’t sure if this was purposeful or not, but he suspected it was. He sat on the bench, elbows on his knees, and thought. It was time to figure out his plan.